Gun Control, NRA-Style
By Vin Suprynowicz
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
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
"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
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.