Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
This July 12, 2012, photo shows a National Rifle Association billboard in Hendersonville, Tenn., attacking Tennessee House Republican Caucus Chairwoman Debra Maggart. The gun rights group has had a falling out with Republican lawmakers in Tennessee over a bill seeking to guarantee workers the right to store their guns in their cars while at work. (AP Photo/Erik Schelzig)
NRA finds some GOP lawmakers resistant to pro-gun laws
Disagreement » Republicans may not always be supportive for the gun rights group.
First Published Jul 13 2012 02:16 pm • Last Updated Jul 13 2012 02:26 pm

Nashville, Tenn. • Threats, denunciations and verbal potshots between the National Rifle Association and the leaders of the Legislature were common in the decades that Democrats ran the show in the Tennessee Capitol. Turns out Republicans are just as good at running afoul of the powerful gun rights group.

GOP leaders in Nashville infuriated the NRA this year by refusing to go along with a bill to prevent businesses from banning guns on their property, and now the group is using its deep pockets to try to unseat one of them. Elsewhere, NRA-backed measures also ran into Republican roadblocks in Georgia, Alabama, Idaho and North Carolina this year.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

The NRA notes recent successes in the legislatures of Virginia, Ohio and South Carolina, describing the recent setbacks as temporary.

"First of all the legislative process is rarely quick and is rarely pretty," chief NRA lobbyist Chris W. Cox said in a phone interview. "We certainly take the long view and we’re committed to bring this not only to Tennessee but across the country."

The NRA is backing up its words with campaign cash in Tennessee, spending $75,000 in an effort to defeat the No. 3 Republican in the state House, Rep. Debra Maggart of Hendersonville.

The effort includes a billboard that depicts Maggart shoulder to shoulder with Democratic President Barack Obama, who is deeply unpopular in Tennessee.

"Defend Freedom — Defeat Maggart on August 2," the sign says, referring to the date of the Republican primary. Early voting began Friday.

The NRA contribution is equal to more than half of Maggart’s campaign balance of $147,000, and far exceeds the $10,000 that her challenger, Courtney Rogers, had on hand through the first half of the year. The gun rights group hasn’t supported any Democrats in Tennessee this campaign cycle.

House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick of Chattanooga said the traditional alliance between Republican lawmakers and the NRA has had very little meaning in recent years.

"They’re our allies as long as it in their self-interest — and I don’t think it’s in their self-interest anymore," McCormick said. "Now that we’re the governing party, they’re going to be critical. They’re never going to be satisfied."

story continues below
story continues below

"They’re a fundraising organization, and their business plan is not to make politicians look good, it’s to have someone to criticize so they can generate more money," he said.

Supporters dubbed the bill the "safe commute act," but opponents raised property rights and safety concerns about guns being stored near large businesses, colleges and schools.

Cox, the NRA’s chief lobbyist, called McCormick’s claims "laughable."

"This is a self-defense issue for us," he said. "We heard bogus property rights arguments from the business community — and McCormick and Maggart sided with the business community."

Republican leaders in Tennessee — including Gov. Bill Haslam — said they were willing to enact a form of the bill as long as it allowed excluded colleges and gave large businesses the ability to opt out along similar lines as an existing Georgia law.

The NRA refused to budge, and a lobbyist confidently predicted to Tennessee lawmakers early in the legislative session that the Georgia law would be corrected this year. That didn’t come to pass, nor did an effort for similar legislation in neighboring Alabama, where the bill died without coming to a vote in the Republican-controlled House.

In North Carolina, the NRA lamented the failure of the Republican-controlled Senate to approve a bill to allow concealed permit holders to carry their guns in restaurants where alcohol is served. Chamber leader Phil Berger said the Senate wanted to take its time on the bill, and some Republicans had raised concerns mixing alcohol and firearms.

An unaffiliated gun rights group, Grass Roots North Carolina, has run radio ads in Berger’s district and released an open letter to Berger last month arguing that senators were afraid to take up the bill.

"Do we have to wait until more die, Sen. Berger?" group leader Paul Valone wrote. "Will your legacy be that Republicans turned their backs on slain restaurant workers due to fear of bad press?"

The June demise of the measure came too late to have an impact on North Carolina primaries, which were held the previous month.

Before the legislative session in Idaho this year, the NRA openly planned to resurrect a bill to allow students at state universities to carry concealed weapons on campus. But no bill was introduced to replace the measure that died in the Republican-controlled Senate the previous year. The NRA’s plans were likely dashed after a mentally ill professor at the University of Idaho gunned down a former student and lover before shooting himself in August.

Next Page >

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.