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NRA endorsements of Democrats focus only on Second Amendment issues

(Oct. 23, 2010) — It’s gotten much less attention than the disputed Veterans of Foreign Wars endorsement, but a similar debate is currently happening in the National Rifle Association, which endorsed Democratic U.S. Rep. Ike Skelton over his Republican challenger Vicky Hartzler while giving both Skelton and Hartzler an “A” rating. While she didn’t receive the NRA endorsement, Hartzler has also been touting her endorsements by two much smaller organizations, the Western Missouri Shooters Alliance and Gun Owners of America.

Locally, the NRA also endorsed incumbent Missouri State Sen. Frank Barnitz, a Dent County Democrat, by giving him an “A-plus” rating, while giving his Republican challenger, State Rep. Dan Brown of Rolla, a slightly lower but still positive “A” rating, the same rating given to most other state representatives in the region, including Rep. David Day of Pulaski County and Rep. Don Wells of Texas County.

According to the NRA, an “A-plus” ranking is given to “a legislator with not only an excellent voting record on all critical NRA issues, but who has also made a vigorous effort to promote and defend the Second Amendment.” That’s slightly better than the “A” rating given to “a solidly pro-gun candidate (who) has supported NRA positions on key votes in elective office or a candidate with a demonstrated record of support on Second Amendment issues.”

The NRA also cautions that it’s a single-issue organization and endorsements “do not take into consideration a candidate’s position on other unrelated issues,” which means a candidate could be endorsed based on a pro-gun stance while holding views on other issues that would not reflect the majority of the NRAs membership.

The national board of the NRA once included U.S. Rep. John Dingell of Michigan, the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives who reflects the traditional unionized blue collar Democratic values of his district which include support for hunting but not other conservative issues.

“The endorsement does not mean that the candidate is a member of a particular political party,” NRA Institute for Legislative Action executive director Chris Cox noted in an article accompanying the endorsements, also pointing out that the candidate may not follow a “particular political ideology.”

“There are strong supporters of the Second Amendment in both the Republican and Democratic parties,” Cox wrote. “The successful defense of the Second Amendment is not a partisan exercise. Party control of the levers of government changes with the political tides, but the long-term mission of protecting our rights does not.”

What receiving the NRAs highest rating does mean at the federal level, according to Cox, is that the candidate opposes “a ban on virtually all deer hunting ammunition,” supports “right to carry and for making your state carry permit valid nationwide,” opposes “bans on semi-automatic firearms” and supports “overturning local restrictions that deny the Second Amendment rights of Americans who live in cities such as Washington, D.C.” The NRA’s endorsement of U.S. Senate candidate Roy Blunt, a current U.S. House member and Republican, over Missouri Secretary of State and Democrat Robin Carnahan, also means that a Senate candidate “will oppose efforts to restrict our rights under a United Nations treaty.”

Unlike most other legislation, federal treaties that are signed by the president are ratified by a vote of the Senate and do not require concurrence by the House of Representatives.

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