Gun Rights Surprise? NRA Supports Many Democrats

| by The Volokh Conspiracy

By David Kopel

Earlier this week, I wrote that NRA would be foolish obey the wishes of Republican activists who want the NRA to endorse only Republicans, and especially to not endorse endangered House Democrats. Here are some data on NRA endorsements, and some of the actions that dozens of House Democrats have taken to merit their endorsements:

NRA Senate endorsements in 2010: 23 Republicans, 2 Democrats.

NRA House endorsements in 2010: 197 Republicans and 61 Democrats.

There were 251 Congresspersons who signed the pro-Second Amendment incorporation congressional amicus brief in McDonald v. Chicago. Of the signers, 81 were House Democrats, and 19 were Senate Democrats, including Majority Leader Harry Reid.

A top NRA priority in Congress is H.R. 2296, to reform the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives.  Of the 243 cosponsors, 76 are House Democrats.

Another NRA-favored bill is H.R. 442, the “Veterans’ Heritage Firearms Act,” would create an amnesty period to allow the registration of war trophies (e.g., an automatic rifle captured from the North Vietnamese Army) that were brought into the United States between 1934 and 1968. There are 211 cosponsors, 66 of whom are House Democrats.

The bill that would have the most significant practical effect for most gun owners is H.R. 197, the “National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act .” Sixty-five House Democrats are among the 209 cosponsors.

Early in the Obama adminisration, Attorney General Eric Holder said that the 1994 ban on so-called “assault weapons” and magazines holding more than 10 rounds, which sunset in 2004, should be re-enacted. Sixty-five Democratic Congressmen signed a letter to the Attorney General, opposing a new ban. In addition, Ike Skelton, the Missouri Democrat who chairs the Armed Services Committee, sent a separate letter to Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Hoyer expressing his opposition to the Attorney General’s remarks. The show of Democratic opposition demonstrated that there was no chance that a ban could pass Congress.  Since then, Attorney General Holder has not made any public statements in favor of gun bans. 

As the numbers above illustrate, Democrats constitute an indispensible part of the pro-Second Amendment majority of the current Congress. Without the NRA’s strong working relationship with so many Democrats, 2009-10 would have seen the enactment of destructive legislation for gun rights, rather than the constructive legislation which has become law.