With millions of members and a war chest that is able to change things in government to protect our Second Amendment rights, the National Rifle Association has been a bulwark of liberty since its founding in 1871. No sane person can dispute that without the NRA, our inherent, God-given right to possess arms to protect ourselves would not be what it is today, if it existed at all.
Your author has been a life member of the NRA for decades, helped organize the Mahoning Valley, Ohio Friends of NRA back in 1996, and chaired the annual fundraising banquet for 10 years.
The NRA is really composed of three different divisions: The 501(C)3 NRA Foundation (under which the Friends of NRA banquets operate), the membership division, and the NRA-ILA (Institute for Legislative Action – a registered lobby. It is this last division, the NRA-ILA, under which the NRA-PVF (Political Victory Fund) operates, which is the subject of this article.
Every election cycle, the ILA sends out questionnaire forms to candidates , to determine their positions on firearms rights issues. Incumbents, or other candidates with a legislative history, are judged on their gun rights related votes. Grades are then issued, and endorsements. The grades range from A+ to F, with A+, of course, being the best rating that can be achieved. NRA-PVF endorsements are automatically given to any incumbent with an “A” rating.
Being a single issue organization, the NRA rightly ignores candidates’ positions on non-firearms rights issues in giving out these grades and endorsements. But there is a problem: Many candidates who receive “A” ratings, and sometimes even endorsements, from the NRA, do not deserve them. In the Ohio-West Virginia area, for example, several candidates come to mind: Ted Strickland, running for re-election as Ohio Governor, received both an A+ rating and endorsement, Joe Manchin, running for U.S. Senate from West Virginia, received an A rating and endorsement, and Tim Ryan, running for Ohio’s 17th congressional district, received both an A rating and endorsement.
Why do these candidates not deserve these ratings, if they are based solely on their records of supporting Second Amendment rights, you ask? Here’s why: each of these candidates, using the bully pulpits of their respective elected positions, have attempted to elect anti-Second Amendment candidates to high office, namely, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama. They endorsed them, campaigned for them, and in the case of Ted Strickland, even went on a phony goose hunt with John Kerry in 2004, complete with photo-ops and camo.
How is it that the NRA can ignore the anti-Second Amendment campaign activities of these candidates, and not include them as a factor in the rating system? How is it that a politician can receive an “A” rating and endorsement from the NRA-ILA while at the same time doing everything they can to elect some of the most gun-hating, “F” rated politicians in history to the most powerful office in the country? At a minimum, the grade ratings of these individuals should be dropped a minimum of one grade, perhaps two, and they certainly should not enjoy an NRA-ILA endorsement.
NRA officials may weakly argue that political party obligations require that these candidates support their fellow party members (in the above examples, all the subjects are Democrats), and that it would be too much to demand that they refrain from supporting their fellow party members who are gun-haters. Really? Principle and integrity must be ignored in these instances?
The NRA is wrong on this, and needs to modify their ratings process. Strickland deserves no better than a “B” rating, and no endorsement. His opponent, John Kasich, has a “B” rating. Manchin also deserves no better than a “C”, and no endorsement. His opponent, John Raese, has a well-deserved “A”. Tim Ryan deserves no better than a “C”, and no endorsement. His opponent, Jim Graham, has a well deserved “A”.