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Did NRA misfire?

POSTED: May 8, 2007 5:02 a.m.
Did the most powerful and vindictive pressure group in Georgia politics finally get its comeuppance in the Georgia Legislature?
At this writing it may be too early to tell for sure. Anything can happen at the last minute. However, in the closing days of the General Assembly, the tough and often ruthless lobbyists for the National Rifle Association received their worst legislative rebuff in memory.
Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Senate Rules Chairman Don Balfour, (R-Snellville), probably deserve citations for bravery for standing up to the NRA, even if for only a moment.  
As the tragic news of the Virginia Tech massacre spread across the land, the NRA insisted on going forward with its legislative agenda in Georgia. While the VT body count rose, the NRA demanded the Georgia Senate approve measures that 1) would force employers to permit their workers to keep guns in their cars on company property, and 2) allow motorists to conceal firearms anywhere in their vehicles.
On the day of the Virginia Tech slaughter, I had breakfast with a respected legislative leader who told me he could not oppose the NRA legislation “because I can’t afford to get an ‘F’ from the NRA.” Neither of us knew at the time what had happened at VT.
The following day, Sen. Balfour refused to take up the NRA package, even as the gun lobbyists called individual lawmakers on the carpet to chastise them for balking. Cagle later pronounced the car-gun bills dead for the session.
To the uninitiated, putting aside the gun bills appeared to be little more than a common act of decency and respect for the Virginia Tech shooting victims. To the NRA, the delay was a big deal, and the association’s Washington executives were reportedly furious.
To some Georgia observers, the NRA’s latest legislative ploy seemed over the top — a violation of private property rights and unnecessary endangerment to cops making routine traffic stops.
A few legislative watchers even proffered the car-gun bills meant the NRA was running low on substantive legislative proposals. The organization has already achieved virtually everything it has ever asked of the legislature and Congress.
Before you suggest we’re overstating the credit due some lawmakers for defiance of the NRA, we commend to you this brief email from a seasoned political figure who demands anonymity because he fears retribution:
“There is no middle ground with the NRA. If you cross them on one thing, you’re toast. You may remember that they beat (former Georgia Congressman) Don Johnson because he voted to ban assault weapons. You will also remember that President Bush and the Republicans refused to renew the assault weapon law during the past few years. Non-felon citizens can buy assault weapons in case they decide to organize an invasion of Alabama,” our correspondent writes.
“Never forget this: The gun is a religion in the red states and in parts of the blue states. The voters who favor firearms restrictions are a lukewarm lot. Supporting gun restrictions won’t actually get you votes. But being seen as anti-gun or anti-NRA will get you beat in rural areas and will surely get you beat statewide. If you are a Democrat who is pro-gun, you at least have a ghost of a chance in rural Georgia. If you are an anti-gun Democrat, forget about it.
“The NRA has made black-and-white issues of everything, even when there are certainly shades of gray. For example, if you say that you are in favor of people having pistols, rifles and shotguns out the wazoo for hunting and self-protection, but also say that you think that it does not serve the public interest for citizens to have better guns than the police (cop killer bullets and assault weapons), you are still considered anti-gun, and you will go down. People don’t listen to the police, many of whose faces are black. They listen to the NRA.    
“This may be a regrettable situation, but it is reality.”
The NRA may have temporarily miscalculated its strength in the Georgia Capitol, but my guess is the gun group emerged stronger than ever from the Blacksburg tragedy. The killings seem to underline a call for making more — not fewer — firearms available for everyone. Even without the campus massacre, a nightly news diet of murder and mayhem on our streets feeds the notion that if we don’t have plenty of guns at our disposal, then the bad guys will suddenly burst out of the cities and mow us all down. It is that fear that keeps the NRA alive and well in much of America.

Contact Shipp at P.O. Box 440755, Kennesaw, GA 30160, or e-mail: shipp1@bellsouth.net
 

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