Sunday, September 19, 2010

Has the NRA lost its mojo?

In a ritual as predictable as hunting season, it's another election year and people are once again gunning for the National Rifle Association. Only this time the powerful gun-rights group and bĂȘte noire of the left is taking friendly fire -- from activists on the right who are growing increasingly impatient with the NRA for taking stands at odds with the rest of the conservative movement.

"I'm beside myself," veteran conservative leader Richard Viguerie told TAS. "It's really sad. The NRA's leadership has become part of the problem in Washington." While Viguerie's tone is more in sorrow than in anger, Erick Erickson of the popular conservative blog RedState has emerged as scathing critic of the NRA, calling it "a weak little girl of an organization."

"There are few organizations purportedly on the side of freedom that aggravate me more than the National Rifle Association," Erickson wrote in June. "In fact, these days I cringe when I see good conservatives with their lifetime member sticker from the NRA on the back of their cars." During the confirmation process for Elena Kagan, Curt Levey of the Committee for Justice complained to the Washington Times, "The NRA has misunderstood what the fight is about."

What irks these conservatives is the sense that the mighty NRA -- a 4 million-member, $307 million organization -- has become too pragmatic in the use of its power: too willing to compromise with Democrats, too cautious in its approach to Second Amendment litigation, too slow to oppose liberal judicial nominees, and too willing to settle for a place at the table in liberal-occupied Washington.

AT FIRST THE GRUMBLING was muted. Why didn't the NRA oppose Eric Holder for attorney general? Why did it take so long to come out against President Obama's Supreme Court nominees? Then an issue not directly related to guns brought conservative discontent out into the open. In June, Congress was debating a campaign-finance reform bill called the Disclose Act, which imposed disclosure requirements so onerous that many nonprofits and activist groups felt it would prevent them from engaging in any effective campaign season political activity whatsoever.

House Democratic leaders granted the NRA and a handful of other groups a carefully crafted exemption from the Disclose Act's requirements, causing the gun-rights group to drop its opposition to the bill entirely. This freed up additional Blue Dog Democrats, fearful of alienating the NRA so close to an election, to vote for it. The bill ultimately passed the House, though at this writing it remains stalled in the Senate.

Conservative reaction to the carve-out was fast and furious. Spokesmen for economic, social, and national-security groups still battered by the Disclose Act complained they were being "thrown under the bus." The Wall Street Journal blasted the NRA for being "arrogant and hypocritical" in an editorial headlined, "The NRA sells out to Democrats on the First Amendment." The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other groups tried to dissuade the NRA from accepting the Democrats' offer, which Chamber spokesmen Bruce Josten told Politico "undercut not only our [position] but another 100,000 other nonprofits."

NRA board member Cleta Mitchell took the unprecedented step of penning an op-ed for the Washington Post dissenting from this decision, though her most direct criticisms were of the House Democrats. "This is not just 'disclosure.' It is a scheme hatched by political insiders to eradicate disfavored speech," Mitchell wrote. "There is no room under the First Amendment for Congress to make deals on political speech, whether with the NRA or anyone else."

Alan Gura, a Second Amendment lawyer with a history of clashes with the NRA, asked TAS, "Would they trade a hereditary monarchy with the Obama administration in exchange for better gun laws?" Says Viguerie, "This is not 'all for one.' This is 'all for ourselves.'" Erickson mocked the Disclose deal by reproducing an NRA press release in which Wayne LaPierre called the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision "a defeat for arrogant elitists who wanted to carve out free speech as a privilege for themselves and deny it to the rest of us."

CRITICISM OF THE NRA from other, smaller gun-rights groups is nothing new. These organizations have long felt more combative tactics were needed to protect the Second Amendment. Larry Pratt, the longtime executive director of Gun Owners of America, told TAS that the NRA "is resigned to working within the system as it is when instead it needs to be restored to what it should be." Aaron Zelman of Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership agreed. "Our members, many of whom are former NRA members, believe the NRA doesn't want the problem of gun control to go away," Zelman says. "If the problem goes away, then so do their six-figure salaries."

What is new is public criticism of the NRA from other organizations in the conservative movement. "We've talked a lot about what the NRA is doing," says one conservative activist. "But not a lot of us have wanted to come out and attack them." That changed when conservatives ranging from the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins to climate change skeptic Myron Ebell expressed their unhappiness with the NRA's behavior concerning the Disclose Act. House Minority Leader John Boehner was particularly blunt.

"Now the NRA are the big defenders of the Second Amendment of the Constitution, the right to bear arms," the Ohio Republican said in a House floor speech after the gun lobby backed the Disclose Act. "But yet they think it's all right to throw everybody else under the table so they can get a special deal, while requiring everyone else to comply with all the rules outlined in this bill, and frankly, I think it's disappointing."

Endorsements have also become a point of contention. Last year, liberal Republican Dede Scozzafava-the liberal Republican who eventually dropped out and endorsed the Democratic candidate-was the NRA endorsee in the special election for New York's 23rd Congressional District. This year, in one of the most closely watched gubernatorial races in the country, the NRA endorsed Ohio's Democratic governor Ted Strickland over Republican former congressman John Kasich. A Republican pickup in the Buckeye State would greatly help the GOP's national fortunes and would be an important bellwether for 2012.

The NRA also threw its support behind Sen. John McCain in Arizona as he was trying to fend off a conservative primary challenge from former Congressman J. D. Hayworth. Both Republicans had generally pro-gun voting records, but there were glaring blemishes on McCain's. McCain led the charge to close the so-called "gun show loophole," touting legislation that would have effectively banned private sales at gun shows and licensed promoters.

In 2004, McCain voted for a bill that contained both his gun show measure and an amendment by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) that would have extended the federal assault weapons bans. McCain had initially voted against Feinstein but continued to support the whole legislative package after her amendment passed. Finally, McCain-Feingold was bitterly opposed by the NRA and almost every other conservative group for more than a decade. Hayworth won the Gun Owners of America endorsement.

More here

NV: Liquor store clerk shoots juvenile during attempted robbery: "A liquor store clerk shot and wounded a juvenile Saturday night during an attempted robbery in the east central valley, Metro Police said. The shooting occurred sometime about 10 p.m. at the JB Liquor store at 5225 East Tropicana Ave., between Nellis Boulevard and Boulder Highway, police said. "A juvenile came into the store and attempted to conduct a robbery and he ended up being the victim, because the store clerk ended up shooting him," Metro Lt. W. Graham said. The juvenile, who was shot twice, was taken to the hospital with what appeared to be non-life-threatening injuries, police said. Graham said he believes the juvenile was armed with a gun. No further details were immediately available about the status of the store clerk."

OK: Young robber shot and killed by store clerk: "Tulsa Police Capt. Dave Roberts said two masked robbers walked into Zeba Food Mart No. 2, at 506 E. 56th St. North, with a rifle around 10:45 p.m. and started shooting. Zahid Khan, an employee at the store, returned fire with a handgun, shooting one of the intruders. Qualynn Dabney, 14, was pronounced dead at the scene from a gunshot to the upper torso, police said Friday. The other robber fled, Roberts said. Detectives recovered a .22-caliber rifle next to Dabney's body. Dabney was in the eighth grade at Phoenix Rising, an alternative education program operated through a partnership between the Tulsa County Juvenile Bureau and Tulsa Public Schools, said Mary Kevin McNamara, director of Phoenix Rising."

Knesset Committee Demands Gun Rights for Jews of Judea/Samaria: "Following the drive-by terrorist murder two weeks ago of Yitchak Imas, whose gun was confiscated by police several weeks ago, and three other people, the Knesset Interior Committee held a stormy session today in which MKs demanded that Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria be allowed to defend themselves. The committee, by majority vote, resolved to recommend to Interior Minister Eli Yishai and to Public Security Minister Yitzchak Aharonovitch, who oversees the police force, to ease the regulations on bearing weapons for the Jews of Judea and Samaria. The committee asked that Aharonovitch report back on the steps being taken to this end, and to investigate why the weapon of Yitzchak Imas was not returned to him in time for him to possibly use it to save his life. Some committee members suggested that any resident whose weapon is taken from him be entitled to a hearing."

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