Splitting the Pro-Gun Vote

I’m worried we’re seeing a repeat of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court endorsements, where NRA’s endorsement differs from that of other pro-gun groups.  In 2007, NRA endorsed Michael Krancer, while other groups endorsed Maureen Lally-Green.  The end result was neither of them making it onto the Supreme Court, and the seat going to Debra Todd.  Gun owners lose.

In the race between Jason Altmire and Melissa Hart, gun owners win no matter which way this race goes.  That’s always a good position to be in.  But it is making me wonder exactly what FOAC endorsement policies are.  I know NRA has gotten a big of flack for their incumbent endorsement policy, where given two roughly equal pro-gun candidates, the endorsement goes to the incumbent by policy.  This is smart politics because ninety percent of all incumbents are re-elected.  The reason to make it a policy is so everyone expects it, and no one holds it against you.  Politicians also know that they are sure to benefit in keeping their seats if they keep their records good, even if they are up against a pro-gun challenger.  Overall, the policy raises the value of NRA’s endorsements.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Melissa Hart, and if I lived in her district, she could count on my vote.  However taking off my voting citizen hat, and putting on my second amendment activist hat, I have to see things pretty differently, because I don’t see much to be gained alienating Jason Altmire, especially when he’s leading in the polls.  The fact of the matter is, Jason Altimire has been good to gun owners.  It might be true that his party hasn’t, but do we want the gun rights movement to be a wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican Party, or do we want there to be a bipartisan consensus?  I think it’s pretty clear under which situation our rights would be more secure.

It’s true that the 110th Congress hasn’t provided as much opportunity for Jason Altmire to stand out compared to Melissa Hart, but on the important issues, he’s been with us.  He signed the Congressional Brief favoring Heller.  He signed on to BATF reform, concealed carry reciprocity, national park carry, and preempting DC Council from regulating guns.  I would say he’s been a leader on our issue.

Now, I’m certainly not saying NRA never makes mistakes in their endorsements.  They do.  Nor am I saying that every pro-gun group always has to get behind NRA’s endorsements.  There have certainly been times where I have felt candidates got the endorsement when they didn’t deserve it, but if that’s the feeling with Congressman Altmire, I’d really like to understand what that’s based on.  I’d like to develop a better understanding of what FOAC, and other pro-gun groups in Pennsylvania consider when it comes to endorsements.  Obviously key votes, and details of what go into any individual endorsement aren’t something that needs to be shared, but I think the overall process needs to be reasonably understood.  I can certainly understand why folks want to support Mellisa Hart, both as a citizen and a gun owner, but the message gun owners are sending to Jason Altmire is that it doesn’t matter how much he supports them, it’ll never be enough.  In the 111th Congress, what incentive does he have to remain so receptive to the concerns of gun owners, when they tried to help unseat him?  As gun rights activists, we must be cautious of letting our own personal political preferences get in the way of what’s best for the overall movement. The smart move here, even if you disagree with NRA’s endorsement of Altmire, would be to issue no endorsement at all.

5 thoughts on “Splitting the Pro-Gun Vote”

  1. OT: is some one named Russell(sp?) running in PA? Some one told me about him up in a chat I was on.

    Said he was solid on 2A.

    I searched your site didn’t find any thing.

  2. I agree not endorsing would have been better. But as I said earlier, the biggest thing against Altmire is that we can’t trust him. He voted for Pelosi, he’s pretty liberal on other things. Does that mean he can’t be good on guns? Nope. But I seriously wonder if he is taking his pro-second amendment positions out of political expediency or because he really believes it. He ran as a pro-life candidate and has totally flipped on that issue. Again, can we trust him? Rep. Jim Traficant before he got into all that trouble, used to vote with the Republicans on the Speaker of the House vote because he didn’t want the liberal Dems in charge of what bills make it to the House floor. I agree that the NRA needs to reach out to the Dems so it doesn’t become a mouthpiece of the GOP and their certainly are plenty of pro-gun Dems. But lets not forget that the Democrat Party platform still calls for massive gun control and Altmire is a supporter of Obama too. Just a lot of food for thought. I live just out of the 4th district and i used to live there, but this is shaping up to be a close one. I wonder if I have time to move back?!?!?

  3. Your criticisms of the Democrats are all completely valid. They are still the party of gun control as long as they put someone like Barack Obama at the head of their ticket. But I think the way to change that is by supporting pro-gun Democrats when they support gun owners, or at least taking a neutral position when you have a pro-gun Democrat running against a pro-gun Republican. Like I said, I’d probably vote for Hart myself, because I don’t lean Democrat… but when you’re an issue advocacy group, you don’t get the luxury of listening to your own personal political preferences. To some degree, it has to be a hard calculation based on his record, with a healthy dose of what’s politically smart thrown in.

  4. William T Russell, I think is who you’re thinking of. He’s running against John Murtha. Murtha will get the NRA endorsement based on the same policy as Altmire. Murtha is solid on guns. I hate his politics on every other issue, but on that he’s been good to us.

  5. There’s another reason in such situations to endorse incumbents that your forgot: Incumbents have voting records, and challengers have nothing but what they say. And you can say anything you want to get elected, but what counts is how you vote once you are elected.

    I’m also mystified by FOAC’s endorsement procedure. They endorsed the Republican challenger instead of Denny Nau, which made no sense at all. I emailed and asked, and the guy who replied said he had no idea and it didn’t make any sense to him, either.

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