An NRA-Friendly Addition to Senate's 'Wedge-Issue June'
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Flying under the radar with all the immigration hubbub in the Senate last week was a charming piece of legislation by Senator George Allen (R-VA) that would allow people licensed to carry a concealed weapon in one state to enjoy the same privilege anywhere else in the country.
S. 3275, which is cosponsored by 12 Senators -- all Republicans, except for GOP-lite Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska -- would make it a law that "… nonresidents of a State may carry concealed firearms in the State" if they are permitted to carry their gun elsewhere. Allen's measure is a companion bill to H.R. 4547, introduced in the House of Representatives in December for the same purpose.
"The bill would simply require States to recognize each other's concealed carry permits and licenses, just as they recognize drivers' licenses," said Allen in introducing his bill last week, proclaiming that his legislation would "… increase the safety of the many law-abiding Americans who have chosen to carry a firearm for protection against criminal attack."
Yeah, that's what we want: States that had the bad judgment to overwhelming vote for George W. Bush again in 2004 sending their heavily-armed, backwoods brethren to New York City, Chicago and San Francisco. Sounds like a real smart idea and, of course, federal legislation would then make it all but impossible for the more enlightened states to keep from being turned into 1870s Deadwood.
And analyzing what might be behind this only confirms the other shoe that you know is going to drop.
With Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) pumping up the Senate calendar for "Wedge-Issue June" -- gay marriage is on tap for next week followed by the flag-burning amendment -- it probably seems like a good time to get the gun-toting types to rally behind a nice divisive firearms bill before the midterm elections.
And, of course, you just know that National Rifle Association (NRA) money is lurking somewhere in the shadows on this story.
Taking a look at all donations made by the NRA of America Political Victory Fund shows that -- surprise! -- four of the top ten Senate recipients of NRA largesse in the last six years are sponsoring this legislation.
Indeed, of the $1.6 million in donations made to Senators or Senate candidates from this particular NRA PAC, almost $400,000, or an astounding 26 percent of the money, went to just nine of the Republicans authoring or cosponsoring the Allen bill. And this, just one facet of NRA contributions, is undoubtedly just the tip of the iceberg.
In a laughable attempt to protect the states that do not readily allow their citizens to walk the streets packing heat, the House bill's language stipulates that the gun holder may not, in such a state "…carry a concealed firearm in a police station, in a public detention facility, in a courthouse, in a public polling place, at a meeting of a State, county, or municipal governing body, in a school, at a professional or school athletic event not related to firearms, in a portion of an establishment licensed by the State to dispense alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises, or inside the sterile or passenger area of an airport."
Isn't it nice to know that, with those restrictions in place, one of these folks will have to wait outside the bar to shoot you?
And one sure-fire way to tell that a U.S. Senator isn't particularly proud of putting their name to a piece of legislation is if there's no mention of it in the press-release section of their official web site. The bill's primary sponsor, Senator Allen, doesn’t mention it. And none of the other 12 sponsors of the legislation say one word about their involvement with the bill in their press releases.
Lest you think the concealed-weapon measure is too insignificant for Senators to include in their announcements, it's important to understand that members of Congress use every opportunity to brag about their legislative feats -- unless they truly want them to pass under cover of darkness. While there's no mention of S. 3275 on John Sununu's (R-NH) web site, he's proud to announce "Sununu backs legislation to eliminate ethanol import tariff."
Michael Crapo and Larry Craig, both Republicans from Idaho, won’t mention the gun bill but grandly announce "Crapo Introduces Forest Service Partnership Bill" and "Craig Introduces Specialty Crop Bill."
Bottom line: This legislation is payback to the NRA and it's so obvious, and such bad public policy, that the Senators don’t even bother to announce it to constituents, many of whom might even be NRA members.
With the NRA making the House's H.R. 4547, sponsored by Representatives Cliff Stearns of Florida and Rick Boucher of Virginia, a legislative and "grassroots activism" priority, look for the bill to pass quickly through the House Judiciary Committee and for the same to happen with the Senate's version.
After all, Bill Frist won't want June to end without throwing another log on the old wedge-issue fire.