Last month, on behalf of my organization, the American Hunters and Shooters Association (AHSA), I sent a letter to Senator Leahy endorsing the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor. I maintained in the letter that "Some in the firearm community have leveled a number of charges against Judge Sotomayor that do not pass the truth test."
Unfortunately, that’s standard operating procedure for many in the entrenched pro-gun community. Everything is a knee-jerk reaction that somehow morphs into all of our guns being taken away. The bureaucrats in the old pro-gun lobby really need to grow up – and smarten up. As I’ve said before, the rhetoric from the NRA leadership and others tarnishes all gun owners, not just their frustrated members.
Sotomayor is going to respect the precedent established by the D.C. v. Heller case, which established that the Second Amendment applies to individuals. That’s what Sotomayor told Senate Judiciary Chair Patrick Leahy during her confirmation hearings. I wrote down what she told Leahy "Like you, I understand how important the right to bear arms is to many, many Americans...I understand the individual right fully that the Supreme Court recognized in Heller." The Second Amendment has not been incorporated into the states, per Justice Scalia in the Heller decision. She followed that precedent in the the Maloney nunchuckas case. And, she’s got an open mind on whether the Second Amendment should be incorporated. Those are the words we’d want to hear from a Supreme Court justice during the hearings. I don’t think anything Sotomayor said n response to questions from any Senator should warrant the alarmist screeching from some in the pro-gun crowd. Zak Johnson posted the Leahy-Sotomayor transcript in an excellent analysis of this issue at Blue Oregon titled, "Attacks on Sonia Sotomayor by Right-Wing Gun Rights Groups Don’t Hold Up." Zak is absolutely right. The attacks don't hold up.
This is a serious matter and deserves serious consideration. But, for the NRA, it’s another political game. In fact, expecting the NRA to be purely political, Politicoreported earlier this week that GOP Senator Jeff Sessions tried to goad the NRA into taking a position against Sotomayor. It’s just sad that the NRA is viewed primarily as a GOP political front group at the disposal of Jeff Sessions. But, no surprise, the NRA did what they were basically told to do by Sessions.
As if on cue, yesterday, the NRA leaders announced they’re opposed to Sotomayor:
The NRA criticized several of the positions Sotomayor had taken on Second Amendment rights. "It is only by ignoring history that any judge can say that the Second Amendment is not a fundamental right and does not apply to the states," two of the group’s leaders, Wayne LaPierre and Chris Cox, said in a statement.
"We believe that any individual who does not agree that the Second Amendment guarantees a fundamental right and who does not respect our God-given right of self-defense should not serve on any court, much less the highest court in the land," they added.
Funny how that happened. Actually, it’s not funny for the millions of gun owners who the NRA purports to represent. In opposing Sotomayor, Cox and LaPierre deliberately misled their members. They intentionally misconstrued her testimony. And, imagine the uproar from conservatives if a potential Supreme Court nominee said history, not Supreme Court precedence, was his or her guiding principle. Cox and LaPierre just can’t bring themselves to be upfront about anything. With them, everything is the worst thing ever.
Last week, before Sessions told them to act, the NRA, which is supposed to be so powerful, the leaders of the group couldn't even take "an official position" on Sotomayor. Instead, the Executive Director of the 140-year old NRA, Chris Cox, also sent a letter to Senator Leahy to attack my three-year old progressive group, AHSA. The point of Cox’s letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee was a swipe at AHSA. That's actually pretty weak.
After the events of the past few weeks, the NRA’s rank and file members should really wonder what the high-paid leaders do with all those emergency contributions, which are always so desperately needed. (And, the brewing scandal about the NRA’s DVD should only add to the concern of NRA members.)
What's becoming increasingly clear is that the NRA politburo doesn't speak for all gun owners -- despite the best efforts of the NRA's leaders to perpetuate that myth.
There are tens of millions of gun owners who don't belong to the NRA – and never will. Most of us know that are gun rights are safe. But not the NRA. That would impact fundraising. Those overpaid senior executives at the NRA are clearly rankled that over twenty million gun owners thumbed their noses at the NRA’s dire warnings that "Obama would take away your guns." Instead, 20 million gun owners, including me, voted for Obama last November. Those gun owners deserve to have a voice in this legislative and political process. Unlike the NRA, AHSA isn't afraid to take a position. And, we can’t even imagine using a letter to the Senate, on an issue of critical importance to the nation, to launch an attack. That's beyond pathetic.
I am going to keep speaking out on issues that affect gun owners. That means protecting our gun rights. When we agree with NRA’s position, so be it, but I also want to protect our environment and public lands. And, I want safe communities. But, more than anything, I want to provide a rational voice for gun owners. That’s been missing. And, every time I hear anything from the leaders of the NRA, I realize just how hysterical and out-of-touch some of the gun groups have become. They really need to grow up.