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How Did the Election Impact the Second Amendment?

Many Blue Dog Democrats who strongly supported gun rights went down to defeat, but the Brady lobby is wrong to state they scored any victories for gun control in the election.

by
Howard Nemerov

Bio

November 7, 2010 - 12:00 am

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence wasted no time promoting the 2010 election as a victory for gun control.

Twenty-seven Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives who were endorsed by the National Rifle Association were defeated yesterday, while only two incumbent Democratic House members who co-sponsored a major gun control bill this session lost their re-election bids.

How did Brady do?

Overall, Brady endorsees won 92% of their House races.* But deeper examination highlights questions about their endorsement process.

In 2008, Brady rode Obama’s coattails to victory, endorsing nearly all Democrats in likely Democrat districts, then proclaiming it a victory for gun control in their post-election report.

However, Brady was soon disappointed. In January 2010, Brady wrote: “Barack Obama was elected on a campaign platform of enacting strong new gun laws,” but failed to deliver. This was because analysis of their report showed that Brady:

  • Manipulated their endorsement process to manufacture a better winning percentage,
  • Ignored the fact that voters didn’t consider gun control an important issue,
  • Ignored voters’ frustration with Republicans (Brady endorses Democrats almost exclusively), and
  • Ignored all the pro-rights Democrats who were elected.

In 2010, Brady again selected many safe candidates to endorse. As in 2008, Brady focused endorsements in traditionally Democratic, anti-rights states, like New York, California, and Massachusetts. Connecticut was one of the few states with a Democratic sweep; Brady endorsed three of their five reps. Massachusetts elected 10 (of 10) Democrats, five were Brady-endorsed.

Brady endorsed 25 of California’s 53 winning representatives. These all came from districts that have voted Democrat in recent decades, generally the last 20+ years, and 24 were incumbents who stood an above-average chance of re-election.

Curiously, Brady dropped many 2008 endorsees, mostly in at-risk states – to them – perhaps because of the justifiable apprehension that Democrat endorsees would lose. These states had higher rates of Republican wins, and all but 2 Brady endorsees are Democrats.

In an apparent first, Michael Arcuri (NY-24) went from Brady- to NRA-endorsed (2008-2010) because he became pro-rights, voting for concealed carry in national parks and cosponsoring NRA-supported BATFE reform.

Arcuri and 44 others lost their 2008 Brady endorsement; 36 maintained their NRA F-grade and three their 2008 D-grade. Curiously, Pelosi lost hers despite a solid anti-rights record. With few exceptions, Brady kept endorsements in “safe” states, earning the highest grades in their latest scorecard: Brady’s top 6 states (scoring 50+) contained a majority (59%) of Brady’s endorsees.

Brady picked some likely wins to boost their numbers. For example, Joseph Cao lost to Brady-endorsed Cedric Richmond, a black, in Louisiana’s 60% black District 2. The Los Angeles Times called Cao’s 2008 win a “fluke.” The only reason he won was because 19-year Congressman William Jefferson was about to be convicted for bribery. Since 1893, Cao was the first non-Democrat to hold this seat.

Charles Djou (HI-1) won a special election when 20-year Democratic Representative Neil Abercrombie resigned to run for governor. Djou won with only 39% of vote, because two Democrats split the party ticket. Brady-endorsed Colleen Hanabusa, who won in 2010, was one of those candidates. This district traditionally votes Democrat.

This is how Brady manufactures larger winning percentages.

* (This analysis covers only the House because 435 outcomes is a better sample size than the Senate’s 37.)

In all, Brady endorsed 113 House candidates in 29 states; the NRA endorsed 272 in all 50 states, including 36 (13%) in Brady’s top states. Conversely, Brady endorsed only three House candidates (3%) in their bottom seven states (Brady scores under 3), while the NRA endorsed 26 (10%). The NRA endorsement process was far more equitable, based upon candidates’ pro-rights reputations rather than anticipated outcomes.

As in 2008, it’s about local politics lining up with the Brady agenda, not a national referendum for gun control. CNN exit polls indicated that the economy was rated first (52% of voters) as the most important issue facing the country; gun control scored zero.

How did the NRA do?

Overall, the NRA scored an 82% winning percentage. But further examination highlights a trend that makes this number misleading.

The NRA endorsed many Democratic candidates because they stood for the Second Amendment under the anti-rights Obama/Pelosi regime.

ABC reported that some Republicans were “furious” over the NRA’s Democratic endorsees:

“In about a week, the NRA will find themselves on the bad sides of a few dozen new Republican members of congress. They have put their credibility – and also that of their members – on the line for the sake of ingratiating themselves with a bunch of liberal Democrats who are about to lose, and lose badly,” said one senior GOP operative who requested anonymity to speak freely.

But by endorsing them, the NRA demonstrated that it stands by pro-rights incumbents, regardless of political trends. This loyalty indicates how the NRA will support those who promote the Second Amendment in the future. It’s how successful single-issue organizations operate. The Washington Post recently wrote that the NRA is “long regarded as one of the most powerful lobbying groups in town … .”  Even the New York Times acknowledges this truth.

After the election, Chris W. Cox, NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action executive director, stated:

Last night was a strong night for the NRA and the Second Amendment. As a result, there will be an unprecedented number of NRA A-rated candidates in both chambers. With the help of our 4 million members, we have led a brick by brick restoration of the Second Amendment and made any opposition to gun rights into a political liability for candidates from either party. Our duty now is to ensure that whoever campaigned as pro-gun now votes pro-gun in the 112th Congress.

The NRA represents the right of the people – not a political party – to keep and bear arms.

Seventeen NRA-endorsed Republicans and 33 Democrats lost (50 total). Thirty-three NRA-endorsed Democrats lost to Republicans; 29 were incumbents, reflecting voters’ dissatisfaction with Democratic policies.

The winners of these contests were 32 Republican and 18 Democrat, reflecting the general shift in voters’ attitudes. Of the 30 Republicans who beat NRA-endorsees, 14 earned A grades and 16 “AQ,” signifying rookie candidates demonstrating Second Amendment support by returning exemplary NRA questionnaires. A 2008 election analysis showed that rookies with an AQ grade all earned an A grade in 2010 as incumbents.

Only 20 of 50 are losses for America’s law-abiding gun owners.

The House moved from an overall NRA grade of C+ in 2008 to B- in 2010. This cannot be considered anything but progress for the Second Amendment. There are 31 A-graded Democrats and 188 A-graded Republicans, making a straight majority on Second Amendment voting. Including 39 Republican and one Democrat AQ, gun owners have 259 solid House votes.

One last consideration: Five new House Republicans earned NRA grades of C or D, and two were Brady-endorsed. It’s curious that “GOP operatives” complain about the NRA’s lack of loyalty to them, while ignoring their own betrayal of the Second Amendment by supporting anti-rights politicians within the party.

That’s the difference between politics and principles.


Former civilian disarmament supporter and medical researcher Howard Nemerov investigates the civil liberty of self-defense and examines the issue of gun control, resulting in his book Four Hundred Years of Gun Control: Why Isn’t It Working? He appears frequently on NRA News as their “unofficial” analyst and was published in the Texas Review of Law and Politics with David Kopel and Carlisle Moody.
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