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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Mark Warner, NRA, and Sotomayor

With debate and a vote on President Obama's nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court taking place this week, much is being written in the media as to whether the NRA's decision to score the vote and the fact that a number of previously NRA endorsed U.S. Senators are going to vote for her signals the organization's clout is waning. I think this is all tripe but today's Washington Times noted this comment from Virginia's junior senator Mark Warner:

"I think the NRA at some point has gone beyond its mission, and are perhaps allowing themselves to get hijacked by those who are in the extreme," Sen. Mark Warner, Virginia Democrat, told the Hill newspaper.

Is it extreme to oppose someone for a life appointment to the highest court in the land who has opined that the protection guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the Constitution "is not a fundamental right?" Does Senator Warner view as extreme those who believe the right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental right?

I find his comment interesting if for no other reason, Warner has worked hard to cultivate a pro-Second Amendment record, including not offending the NRA since he ran for Governor in 2001. The last time he made anything near a disparaging remark about the group was at a debate during the 2001 campaign when debate moderator and former governor Doug Wilder asked if Warner thought the NRA was a positive force in Virginia. Warner stumbled and fumbled and finally said he thought the NRA represented the views of its members. His performance on that question in the debate prompted the NRA to change it's neutral stance at the last minute and send a letter to members urging them to vote for Mark Earley. Though the letter was probably sent too late to have a major impact on the election results, it likely had something to do with Warner's 12 point lead in the polls dipping to a 5 point margin of victory on election night.

Be that as it may, Warner went on to sign every pro-rights bill that was put on his desk and earned an "A" rating in his campaign for the senate last year. He was not endorsed since his opponent was also a former governor with an "A" rating who is also an NRA Board member.

Regarding the Sotomayor nomination, NRA was between a rock and a hard place. It is difficult to defeat a Supreme Court nominee (though not impossible - just ask Robert Bork) since, as the Times noted, many put issues on the back burner and take the view that the president should get his pick. Elections do have consequences after all. Given her written opinion on the issue near and dear to the heart of NRA members, if they said nothing, there would be pro-freedom folks that would be unhappy. If they decided as they have, to oppose the nomination and lose, you get Paul Helmke saying things like this:

"The lesson that's going to come out of this is you can vote against the NRA and still win, and win in gun-friendly areas," said Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, the nation's leading gun control group, which is billing this week's vote as a chance to defeat the NRA.
I am still scratching my head though over Warner's backhand to the NRA. Here is a guy who back in February told The Hill newspaper that he opposed reinstating the so-called "assault weapons" ban so you can't figure he is a darling of the anti-rights crowd. But his comment sounds like some Brady campaign talking point on Sotomayor. I guess this is what happens when you elect a "Radical Centrist" as Senator Warner likes to call himself.

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