By Paul Helmke, Brady Campaign President | Brady Blog
On the eve of those hearings, the National Rifle Association still
has not decided whether to score Senate votes on her confirmation.
Up to now, the NRA has instead taken a more timid official line
against Judge Sotomayor, while apparently outsourcing a much harsher
line of attack to members of its Board of Directors who speak on behalf
of other organizations which have comparatively little to do with guns.
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For example, one official NRA spokesperson said, "The rulings [Judge Sotomayor] has made are troubling, and concern us," while their top lobbyist has said,
We still have serious concerns about positions she's
taken in the past, and the answer as far as following precedent [in the
Supreme Court's Heller decision] is somewhat meaningless,
because it does not answer the question of where she stands on the
fundamental right of law-abiding Americans to keep and bear arms.
These statements are remarkably weak, especially compared to the
vitriol coming from prominent members of the NRA Board of Directors.
Take Ken Blackwell, for example, who recently wrote that President Obama's nomination of Judge Sotomayor "declares war on America’s gun owners."
Pulling no punches, Blackwell said "President Obama has nominated a
radically anti-Second Amendment judge to be our newest Supreme Court
justice" and warned that red state Democratic "senators will jeopardize
their seats if they vote to support an anti-gun radical for the Supreme
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While Blackwell – a former officer holder in Ohio and unsuccessful
candidate for Chair of the Republican National Committee – now
identifies himself as a Senior Fellow of the American Civil Rights
Union or the Family Research Council in this context, he neglects to
disclose that he is also an elected NRA Board member.
Meanwhile, a letter
submitted by an organization calling itself the "Third Branch
Conference," calls on Republican Senators to filibuster Judge
Sotomayor's nomination. Among the co-signers of this letter are David
Keene – the NRA's newly-elected first vice president and president of the American Conservative Union – and Grover Norquist, longtime NRA Board member and president of Americans for Tax Reform. Neither notes their high-level NRA connection in this context.
NRA officials seem to say one thing while their surrogates say
another, indicating that either NRA leaders are afraid of showing their
weakness on this vote, or they have lost control of their message – or
So far, the only open and direct anti-"gun control" opposition to Judge Sotomayor's nomination seems to be from Gun Owners of America,
who call her "a politically correct lover of centralized government
power" and a judge who "has racked up an anti-Second Amendment record
and has displayed contempt for the rule of law under the Constitution."
Echoing Ken Blackwell, GOA Executive Director Larry Pratt said, "A vote for her says you don’t really support the Second Amendment."
Make no mistake, the gun lobby's histrionics about Judge Sotomayor
ignore her record as a distinguished jurist who practices judicial
restraint and who interprets the Second Amendment narrowly – unlike the activist majority in the Heller case.
As a former prosecutor who saw the effects of easy access to guns up
close, her experience promises to bring a real-world understanding of
the effects of gun violence to the Supreme Court.
That said, given the National Rifle Association's alleged power to rule Congress "with an iron fist,"
I am pleasantly surprised that their official position is so weak and
apparently divided on a nominee who many gun advocates – including NRA
Board members – are certain is a grave threat to Second Amendment
We'll see during Judge Sotomayor's confirmation hearings how much
stock, if any, NRA officials take in their legendary influence over
Congress – this time, whether they have the spine to score Senators on
a vote that really matters.