T
H
E

L
I
B
E
R
T
A
R
I
A
N

E
N
T
E
R
P
R
I
S
E


I
s
s
u
e

28


THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 28, May 15, 1997

Gun Control, NRA-Style

By Vin Suprynowicz
vin@lvrj.com

Special to The Libertarian Enterprise

         It started with state Sen. Carol Martin, of Oklahoma's 24th District, out in Comanche.
         In a "to whom it may concern" letter sent to Gun Owners of America -- the smaller and more principled competitor of the massive National Rifle Association -- Ms. Martin reports that in 1996, she "offered a Vermont-style right-to-carry amendment in the Oklahoma State Senate," eventually drawing the support of about one-third of the members.
         Vermont is the only state in the union that allows anyone -- resident or non-resident -- to carry a concealed weapon about his or her person at any time, without having to apply for any kind of permit. (Not at all accidentally, Vermont has one of the lowest crime rates in America.)
         Thus, the model for a "concealed carry" bill that truly acknowledges gun ownership as a right is known in legislative circles as "Vermont carry."
         In her March 31 letter, Sen. Martin reports returning a call from NRA lobbyist Mary Anne Bradfield "around June 12, 1996, AFTER my amendment failed. ...
         "My conversation with Ms. Bradfield was the first direct contact I had with the NRA-ILA since I defeated an NRA-ILA-endorsed incumbent in 1994. This incumbent, a Democrat, had come out publicly for banning semi-automatic firearms and against even a permit-style concealed carry law.
         "Ms. Bradfield's tone was both annoying and condescending. The gist of the conversation was that Ms. Bradfield was upset about my motion to establish Vermont-style right-to-carry in Oklahoma, and that I got 'so-called good' gun people voting" for such a bill.
         Sen. Martin's letter mentions that Colorado legislators report being similarly lobbied against "Vermont carry" initiatives by the NRA's lobbyists. "I understand that some members have been 'threatened' with 'F' ratings if they vote for Vermont-style right-to-carry," she reports.
         It seems to be more than a rumor.
         State Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, of Colorado's 65th District, far to the northeast around Fort Morgan, picks up the tale in an April 2 letter to Dudley Brown, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners:
         "Last week I had a conversation with NRA lobbyist Mary Anne Bradfield, the state liaison for Colorado.
         "Ms. Bradfield echoed the sentiments of Steve Schreiner of the Firearms Coalition of Colorado, who rudely told me that any attempt to amend Senate Bill 96 with a 'Vermont Law' would be viewed as anti-gun. Ms. Bradfield was even brash enough to threaten me with lowering my NRA rating, telling her members that I am anti-gun. ...
         "I pledged to support the 'Vermont Law' (i.e. carrying concealed without government permit) because I believe wholeheartedly in our right to personal protection," Ms. Musgrave's letter continues. "It is outrageous that an NRA lobbyist would suggest that voting to make it easier for citizens to carry a firearm is 'anti-gun.'
         "Am I to believe that the NRA rates lawmakers based on their willingness to comply with a lobbyist's wishes, no matter how inane? That would come as a shock to NRA members, who expect ratings to reflect a candidate's views and record on supporting the Second Amendment. ..."
         I asked Dudley Brown what he thought was going on.
         "It's almost like you have to threaten killing the bill or they're never going to fix it," said the defense rights activist, obviously exasperated. "That's exactly what we did when the bill came out of the senate side. We did a lot of threatening that this bill was dead because they'd put some criminal safe zones in there ... areas where you cannot carry, they're prohibited by law. ... Musgrave when she was on the floor talking about those, she was just tearing into them. Well, we got those taken out of the bill. But the NRA and all their little lackeys kept saying, 'Let's pass it, it's better than nothing.' ..."
         Freshman Colorado state Rep. Barry Arrington confirms the NRA position on "Vermont carry":
         "They opposed it. They suggested that they would look upon a vote for that unfavorably." When confronted, "they backed way off that," Mr. Arrington reports. "Mary Anne Bradfield denies vociferously ever threatening to lower the rating to an 'F' if you vote for Vermont carry, though that's the impression that I got; she did say the NRA would view it as an anti-gun vote."
         The name of Mary Anne Bradfield kept coming up, so I called the lady direct, at NRA headquarters in Fairfax, Va.
         "That's not accurate," Ms. Bradfield said of the reports that she has repeatedly warned state lawmakers not to support "Vermont Carry."
         But Ms. Bradfield, though sweet as honey, said she was not allowed to discuss any specifics.
         "We have a policy that everything has to go through our press department," she told me on a Tuesday afternoon, May 5, "and they are all in Seattle (for the annual NRA membership meeting) and not back yet. It's just policy. You know how that is, I'm you sure you run into a lot of organizations that have these kinds of rules and regulations. ... I almost have to laugh about all this, it's so out of control. I do want to respond, believe me."
         Ms. Bradfield promised to have an official NRA spokesman call me. By press time, none had.
         Meantime, Colorado State Rep. Carolyn Musgrave returned my call, and was willing to talk:
         "I feel like I was taken to task by Mary Anne Bradfield," Rep. Musgrave said. "I was the one who offered the Vermont Carry bill last year, so it was natural that I'd be the one to offer it again this year. But she said she didn't want me to do that. She said I'd be rated as 'anti-gun' if I proposed it.
         "I was made distraught by that; I'm a member of the NRA. ... I was disappointed that the NRA was going to downgrade my rating as a supporter of gun rights."
         I asked Rep. Musgrave if she's having any second thoughts about her four-year membership in the organization.
         "Yes, I'm beginning to have some doubts about that. Being a politician, I know about the art of compromise. But I also know the importance of voting your conscience, and standing on principle. She told me if I offered the Vermont Carry amendment, the liberals would back it and it would pass, and then Gov. Romer would be sure to veto it. Well, I don't think that's very realistic, to expect a bunch of liberals from the suburbs of Denver to vote for Vermont Carry. That could get a bit sticky to explain to their liberal constituents. And let's face it, Mr. Romer is now the head of the Democratic National Committee; he's going to veto this bill anyway.
         "I think we ought to not cave in on something like this, not let the threat of a veto prevent us from presenting the best bill we can. Why do we make law-abiding citizens jump through all these hoops when the criminals carry, anyway? I say, give law-abiding citizens a chance to exercise their Second Amendment rights."
         Next time -- State Sen. Carol Martin, Oklahoma's gun rights champion, explains why the NRA backed her anti-gun opponent.

 
Vin Suprynowicz is the assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The web site for the Suprynowicz column is at http://www.nguworld.com/vindex/. The column is syndicated in the United States and Canada via Mountain Media Syndications, P.O. Box 4422, Las Vegas Nev. 89127.


Next to advance to the next article, or Previous to return to the previous article, or Index to return to The Libertarian Enterprise, Number 28, May 15, 1997.