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Clear Choices- Key Races Will Determine Makeup of United States Senate

Friday, October 12, 2012

By Chris W. Cox, NRA-ILA Executive Director

In 1787, weeks after the Constitution was sent to the states for ratification, James Madison wrote to Thomas Jefferson to recount the debates in the constitutional convention. The Senate, Madison wrote, was “the great anchor of the Government.”

The same is true today, for two reasons of special concern to gun owners. First, only the Senate can confirm federal judges—including Supreme Court justices—and two recent Second Amendment cases were decided by 5-4 margins. Second, treaties can only be ratified by a two-thirds vote of the Senate—and while this summer’s United Nations Arms Trade Treaty conference ended in a stalemate (see “Gun Owners Win Battle at U.N.,” p. 46), treaty proponents are poised to try again in this fall’s session of the U.N. General Assembly.

Those two facts alone should be enough to focus gun owners’ eyes on a handful of key races this fall. In at least seven states—Florida, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin—gun owners have clear choices that will not only determine the partisan makeup of the U.S. Senate, but will also decide whether the “great anchor” will prevent our Second Amendment rights from drifting away.

Florida

Sen. Bill Nelson has served for 12 years in the Senate, and has voted many times against the interests of gun owners. He voted against Right-to-Carry reciprocity; to ban most common rifle hunting ammunition; to gut the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) of its most important provisions; and to renew the 1994 Clinton semi-auto ban.

If that weren’t enough, he voted to confirm both Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. With the historic Heller and McDonald decisions riding on just one vote, one more anti-gun Supreme Court nominee supported by Nelson could be a fatal blow to the Second Amendment.

His opponent, Connie Mack, has a strong pro-gun record as a member of the U.S. House for the past eight years. During that time, Rep. Mack strongly supported the PLCAA; voted for legislation to protect the rights of gun owners during states of emergency; and supported Right-to-Carry

reciprocity. Mack also voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate with the investigation into the deadly “Fast and Furious” scandal.

Mack has earned an “A” rating from the NRA-PVF in each race for Congress, while Nelson has earned an “F” rating in his two previous Senate runs. Connie Mack is the clear choice for Florida gun owners.

Nebraska

It appears that some in Nebraska want to turn back the clock by returning anti-gun former Sen. Bob Kerrey to office. During his previous terms in the Senate, Kerrey voted to end gun shows as we know them; to ban importation of standard capacity magazines; and for the 1994 Clinton gun ban. He also voted for the final version of the Brady Bill and a permanent five-day waiting period on all handgun purchases.

His opponent, Deb Fischer, is an “A+” rated member of the Nebraska legislature, where she worked with NRA to pass Nebraska’s Right-to-Carry law. She was also the primary sponsor of youth-mentored hunting legislation that eventually became law in Nebraska. Deb Fischer has a proven pro-Second Amendment record and will provide pro-gun leadership in the Senate.

Nevada

In Nevada, the differences between the two candidates could not be more distinct. Rep. Shelley Berkley has spent 14 years in the U.S. House voting to limit our Second Amendment rights. She voted for gun show restrictions and to allow the federal government to keep background check information on law-abiding gun purchasers. Berkley also voted against protecting the firearm industry from being sued into bankruptcy and against allowing trained airline pilots keep a firearm in the cockpit to protect their passengers from terrorists. She opposed holding Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for his role in the deadly “Fast and Furious” scandal.

Gun owners have a clear choice in this race: Sen. Dean Heller. Sen. Heller is “A” rated by the NRA-PVF for his longstanding pro-Second Amendment record. While serving in the U.S. House, he voted with gun owners on every key vote, including for the right to carry firearms in our national parks and to prohibit the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives from collecting information on the sale of multiple long guns to law-abiding people. In the U.S. Senate, he has stated his clear opposition to an anti-gun U.N. arms treaty and his strong support for national right-to-carry reciprocity. Dean Heller has earned the strong support of Nevada gun owners in November.

Ohio

Sen. Sherrod Brown is one of the leading anti-gun voices in the Senate, and has been a steadfast opponent of gun owners’ rights during his entire career in Congress. He voted for the original semi-auto ban in 1994, he opposed the PLCAA and voted against national Right-to-Carry reciprocity. He also supports federal controls that would drive gun shows out of business and voted to ban most hunting rifle ammunition.

Brown also voted to confirm Justices Sotomayor and Kagan to the Supreme Court, and would certainly support future nominees who oppose our fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms. It bears repeating: We can’t afford one more anti-gun Supreme Court nominee who could overturn the Heller and McDonald decisions.

His opponent, Josh Mandel, was an “A” rated member of the Ohio legislature and received the NRA-PVF endorsement in his successful race for Ohio state treasurer in 2010. He strongly supported passage of Castle Doctrine legislation in Ohio and has worked closely with NRA to reform Ohio’s Right-to-Carry laws. By defeating anti-gun Sherrod Brown,

Josh Mandel would give Ohio gun owners a strong voice in the U.S. Senate.

Texas

Texans have sent many pro-gun senators to Washington who have stood tall in defense of the Second Amendment. This year, gun owners have the opportunity to vote for Ted Cruz, the former Texas solicitor general and a staunch supporter of gun owners’ rights.

Ted Cruz has worked closely with the NRA over the years on some of our most important legal battles. He was part of the team that won the Emerson decision, which set the stage for the ruling in the historic Heller case.

In Heller, Cruz organized 31 states to join a brief before the U.S. Supreme Court in support of our individual right to keep and bear arms. Two years later, as the McDonald case came before the Court, Cruz stepped up once again, gathering 37 states along with Texas on a brief arguing that our individual right to keep and bear arms is fundamental and applies to all Americans.

Ted Cruz will oppose any U.N. treaty that would restrict our rights and will fight against all efforts to re-enact or expand the Clinton gun ban. In addition, he will strongly oppose any anti-gun nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Ted Cruz will be an outstanding ally of gun owners and a true leader for freedom in the U.S. Senate.

Virginia

Gun owners in the Old Dominion have the opportunity to return a true friend to office. As a former U.S. senator and governor, George Allen has a long history of support for the Second Amendment. This is not true of his opponent, former Gov. Tim Kaine.

As governor, Kaine opposed efforts to expand Right-to-Carry, twice vetoing legislation that would have allowed carrying in a vehicle or boat without a permit and also twice vetoing legislation to allow permit holders to carry concealed in restaurants. Kaine also vetoed legislation to allow online training courses for carry permits and tried to more than double the fee for state background checks on gun purchases.

In contrast, Allen voted for federal “emergency powers” legislation protecting gun owners; strongly backed the PLCAA; and twice voted against amendments to ban most rifle hunting ammunition. He also voted against extending the 1994 Clinton gun ban. And as governor, Allen supported and signed Virginia’s Right-to-Carry law; abolished parole for violent criminals; and promoted truth-in-sentencing legislation. George Allen is the choice in this race for Virginia gun owners, with a proven record of fighting for the Second Amendment.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin voters have weathered political storms over the past 18 months, and again will have a close election with candidates that are clearly defined on the Second Amendment.

In the race for U.S. Senate, Tammy Baldwin has a proven anti-gun record. In her 14 years in the U.S. House, Baldwin has voted against gun owners every time she’s had the chance. She voted for restrictive federal gun show laws; to allow the government to maintain records of law-abiding gun purchasers; and to allow reckless lawsuits designed to bankrupt the firearm industry.

Baldwin has voted repeatedly against your right to self-defense, opposing both carry in national parks and interstate carry reciprocity. This year she showed her opposition to hunters by voting against the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act. Baldwin also voted against holding Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for his role in the deadly “Fast and Furious” scandal. In short, Tammy Baldwin has one of the most anti-gun records of any current member of Congress.

Baldwin’s opponent is Tommy Thompson, former Wisconsin governor. Gov. Thompson is a Life member of the NRA and as governor signed the right to keep and bear arms amendment to the Wisconsin Constitution. He also signed pre-emption legislation that eliminated local firearm restrictions. He supports Wisconsin’s newly passed Right-to-Carry law and even has a permit himself. The right choice for Wisconsin gun owners is clear: Tommy Thompson.

These aren’t the only important U.S. Senate races this fall. Incumbents such as Orrin Hatch of Utah, Bob Corker of Tennessee and John Barrasso of Wyoming, as well as up-and-comers such as Rick Berg of North Dakota, deserve the support of gun owners.

Be sure to see the Political Preference Chart in the November issue of your NRA magazine for details about endorsements in races in your state, or go to www.NRAPVF.org for more information. With everything that’s at stake, all gun owners need to be “All In” for this fall’s campaigns.

Coming next month: Full coverage of the presidential match-up, and highlights in the battle for America’s governors’ mansions. 

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.