R. Franz, in the comments, points out that Arizona’s restaurant carry law, recently signed by the Governor, has some flaws.Â Chiefly that the bill exempts people with Concealed Carry Licenses from the prohibition on carrying in an establishment licensed to serve alcohol, but that the prohibition still stands for people openly carrying a firearm.
The last bill, which Governor Napolitano vetoed, just repealed the restriction on firearms in establishments licensed to serve alcohol, which would have made no distinction between licensed concealed carry and open carry.Â The bill which was introduced this year, and which NRA supported, was identical to the one Napolitano vetoed.
But everyone in the legislature knew Napolitano was going to veto the bill, and when a legislator knows that, they tend not to be all that concerned with voting for a bill they don’t really like.Â They know they can use the vote to please one constituency, knowing that the competing constituencies won’t get all bent out of shape because the veto is assured.
Fast forward to this year, and Napolitano gets called up by the Obama Administration to head up Homeland Security.Â Secretary of State Jan Brewer assumes the Governorship and indicates that she will sign a restaurant carry bill.Â That changes the politics of the situation a bit, and suddenly legislators who were willing to vote for a bill they knew would be vetoed suddenly start to express concern, and suddenly a the votes that were there before are no longer.Â So what now?Â You can either amend the bill to deal with concerns of some legislators in an attempt to pick up the votes you need to pass the bill, or you can push the bill forward as is and risk it dying.Â There are reasons to go either way.Â Â Some reasons to let the bill die:
- There might not be a way to move forward without screwing someone.Â In other words, you’d have to give away too much to get the votes you need.
- If you pass an imperfect bill, it can make fixing the problems more difficult down the road, since some people got what they wanted, they might not have as much incentive to fight for the rest.
- The electoral situation could change in your favor.
But there are problems with letting the bill die:
- The other side will claim they beat you, and use your defeat to raise more money, enhance their own reputation at your expense.
- The electoral situation could change in the other side’s favor.
- People may run out of patience with the issue, and with you, waiting for the perfect bill.
So what do you do if you’re a lobbyist in this situation?Â What I would look at is:
- What do I need to change about the bill to get the votes I need?Â Am I giving rights to one group and taking away from another within our coalition?Â That kind of thing would be off the table, but if I can get a partial win, without too many concessions, that’s might be worth doing while we have the opportunity.
- What direction is the legislature going?Â If I hold out for a better bill, is the environment going to improve, or get worse?Â In the case of Arizona, there’s an awful lot of Californians and Damned Yankees moving in who don’t mind voting for anti-gun Democrats.
- Who am I going to piss off if I don’t make a deal to get the votes?Â Some of the bill’s sponsors are going to be anxious to take something home to show the constituents, even if it’s not perfect.Â Am I going to burn bridges with some of those people if I drop support for the bill if a reasonable deal is possible?
- If we stick with the perfect bill, and it inevitably fails, who in the legislature is vulnerable enough on this issue that we might be able to unseat them and replace them with someone who will play ball?Â Doing this is a tremendous gamble.Â Unseating an incumbent is never a smart bet.Â You don’t want to play that game unless you really have to.
- Are some of the lawmakers expressing concern about the bill people who are soft on the issue, but that you’re trying to firm up?Â If so, will taking a hard line when they are willing to meet you most of the way there going to push them away from your overall position?
Obviously, given what we know about the restaurant carry bill in Arizona, NRA decided to take a partial victory rather than holding out for a perfect bill.Â I don’t honestly know enough about the political makeup of the Arizona Legislature to say for sure it was the right call, but neither do a lot of the critics of NRA’s legislative strategy.Â But you can at least get some idea of how a lobbyist on an issue has to think, and all the different competing interests that have to be balanced.Â Moving a bill is cat herding in its highest form as an art.Â Legislators are often odd, quirky people, who have to balance a lot of competing interests.Â Keeping them on the reservation in regards to your interests is difficult even when you have a lot of carrot and stick to use, as we do in the gun issue.Â But the Arizona Restaurant Association has a lot of carrot and stick too, as nearly all legislators will have restaurants in their district, and people who work for and patronize them.Â I agree with R. Franz that it would have been nice to get open carry too, but I am reminded of the well known Rolling Stones song:
No, you can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you might find
You get what you need