Newspaper article Roll Call

With Friends like the NRA, Who Needs Enemies?

Newspaper article Roll Call

With Friends like the NRA, Who Needs Enemies?

Article excerpt

Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., recently found out how fickle his former allies in the gun lobby can be.

Last year, Pryor was one of only four Democrats in the Senate to buck popular opinion and vote against the Manchin-Toomey amendment that would have closed loopholes in the gun background-check system.

To the consternation of his supporters, Pryor voted "no" on Manchin-Toomey because he figured a vote against the gun lobby - even on something as middle-of-the-road as background checks - would make him vulnerable in his re-election race.

At first the National Rifle Association responded favorably to Pryor's gambit, running radio ads thanking him for his vote. Then last month, the NRA launched a TV ad campaign in support of Pryor's opponent, Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark. To date, the NRA has spent more than $2 million backing Cotton.

For all his maneuvering, Pryor ended up in the gun lobby's crosshairs anyway. And it's clear now that his vote against Manchin- Toomey was more naive than it was calculating.

If Pryor loses - and recent polls showed his opponent leading by a slight margin - pundits will point to a number of contributing factors.

But regardless of whether he wins, Pryor's predicament is an object lesson in gun politics.

When it comes to gun issues, candidates have two options now.

One is to support reasonable gun laws. It's not controversial and it's not complicated. You can be for both the Second Amendment and for public safety measures that help save lives.

Or, you can follow the Pryor playbook. You can try to court the gun lobby.

You can do what Pryor did, and go against the will of the 84 percent of Arkansans who supported the background checks bill - and the 92 percent of Americans who want to close loopholes in the law and require background checks for all gun buyers.

Like Pryor, you can parrot the NRA- approved line about finding "real solutions" to gun violence instead. You can claim that a lack of mental health services is "the real issue" - and ignore the reality that today felons and domestic abusers are buying guns at gun shows and online, no questions asked.

You can try to toe the NRA line. …

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