By Mark Hillman
To anyone who still believes the National Rifle Association cares more about protecting your Second Amendment rights than it does about kissing up to powerful politicians, it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee.
For the NRA, the Second Amendment has become little more than an expedient tool for raising money, striking political compromises, and maintaining access to those in power.
This week, the NRA’s Political Victory Fund endorsed liberal Democrat Congresswoman Betsy Markey, who cares so deeply about the Second Amendment that she didn’t even bother to return the NRA’s survey when she first ran for Congress two years ago.
So why did the NRA cast its lot with Markey now?
It’s simple: the NRA likes to play it safe by backing incumbents, even those whose support of gun rights is as sturdy as a soggy role of toilet paper. When the NRA endorsed liberal Democrat Sen. Harry Reid, NRA lobbyist Chris Cox explained that its “long-standing policy … gives preference to incumbent candidates who have voted with the NRA on key issues.”
Let’s establish the gun rights credentials of the two candidates in this race.
Republican challenger Cory Gardner has repeatedly taken the lead on pro-gun rights legislation such as the “Make My Day Better” bill that would give business owners and employees the same right to defend themselves and their business property as they have to defend their home.
Based on Gardner’s voting record during five years in the Colorado Legislature, even the NRA gave him an A+ grade.
On the other hand, Markey has done nothing courageous or noteworthy. The NRA’s flim-flam press release touts her co-sponsorship — that’s Beltway speak for “honorary cheerleader” — of a bill that she knows will never come to a vote in a Democrat-controlled Congress.
On the Second Amendment, Markey is no profile in courage. Her two actual “pro-gun” votes were meaningless throwaways, cast to gain political cover (which the NRA is now slavishly providing) after the outcome of the vote was no longer in doubt.
(Remember Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall voting to allow guns in national parks but only after obtaining permission from the Senate’s top gun-grabber, Sen. Charles Schumer? Markey’s votes were of the same lot — manipulative campaign fodder.)
Now, the NRA wants us to believe that if push comes to shove, Betsy Markey will “demonstrate her commitment to our Second Amendment rights” and betray Nancy Pelosi and the cadre of local liberal activists to whom she owes her election.
If you believe that, you’re a hopeless sheep.
Markey and the NRA were also allies on the DISCLOSE Act, which attacked the First Amendment rights of most Americans but conveniently carved exemptions for the NRA and labor unions.
Conservative columnist George F. Will explained, the NRA “told Democrats that it would not oppose DISCLOSE if the legislation exempts entities with a cynically constructed set of attributes that only the NRA has.”
Will described the NRA’s refusal to fight DISCLOSE as “intellectual ludicrousness and moral disarmament,” tantamount to arguing that the Second Amendment is sacred but the First Amendment is negotiable.
During my two terms in the Colorado Senate, the NRA regularly watered down gun rights legislation to garner unneeded Democrat votes rather to push for the best pro-gun legislation that could pass. At that time, Republicans held the majority and even a handful of Democrat legislators were solid on gun issues — without the NRA’s pabulum.
I understand that the NRA looks solely at gun issues and nothing else. But for gun owners who think for themselves, this race is a slamdunk. Cory Gardner has demonstrated his rock-solid credentials by fighting for gun owners and against the liberal majority at the State Capitol. Betsy Markey has said “me, too!” when it doesn’t matter.
When I cast my vote for Congress, it will be for the candidate I know I can count on. When I donate to groups that support my Second Amendment rights, it won’t be to the NRA.
Mark Hillman served as Senate Majority Leader and State Treasurer. He is the Republican National Committeeman for Colorado.