Morale problem solved: Sarah invigorates army of pro-gun voters

By Chad D. Baus

She didn't raise a musket above her head during her speech at the Republican National Convention, and there have not (yet?) been cries of "from my cold dead hands" on the campaign trail, but for all the renewed enthusiasm among the pro-gun voting block, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin might as well have done both.

Many Americans are coming to the realization that Sarah Palin is truly "one of us", but perhaps no others saw it as quickly as did America's gun owners.

Unlike Mitt Romney, who helped pass an "assault weapons" ban in Massachusetts, and only decided to join the NRA when it was time to run for President, Palin is a life-long NRA member. Unlike John Kerry, who thought he could fool hunters with a late election season Ohio goose hunt, Palin has been a big game hunter since she was a child.

Palin's support for the Second Amendment and for hunters' rights is so clearly a part of who she is that the photos chosen by media and weblogs to introduce her to the American public often feature her posing next to game she harvested, or firing military-style rifles. (Her political enemies even made sure to include a gun in a faked bikini photo).

Gun owners have had good reason to be skeptical about the prospect of trusting Arizona Sen. John McCain to protect our Second Amendment rights. But the pro-gun voting block now appears ready to welcome the opportunity to vote Sarah Palin for Vice President, seeing Palin as someone who diminishes the risk and increases the promise of long-term gain for gun owners.

One can almost hear the groans of the Democrat party, which has spent the past few years advising its candidates on how to "recast [their] gun control image" - a move that came in response to repeated losses that were directly attributed to the pro-gun vote.

NRA-ILA Executive Director and chief lobbyist Chris Cox told the National Journal Online that the nomination of Sarah Palin as the Republican party's candidate for Vice President has spawned "great excitement among gun owners and hunters."

"Our focus is to arm gun owners with the facts," Cox stated, noting that the 4 million-member NRA intends to do comprehensive education and voter-turnout work targeting the nation's 80 million gun owners.

According to Cox, the Palin pick is going to be highlighted on a recently launched NRA website, www.gunbanobama.com, which will feature the print, radio, and TV ads that the NRA is expected to launch later this month.

In 2000 and again in 2004, the NRA hosted "Vote Freedom First" rallies in states where gun rights are a big issue, and there is no doubt that part of their $40 million budget for this year's elections will be used to organize similar events - perhaps even featuring Palin herself as the keynote speaker.

For its part, a senior McCain aide says the McCain campaign is planning to send Palin to battleground states "in the heartland, where Second Amendment rights are particularly treasured."

The McCain aide also says that the campaign also intends to draw a sharp contrast between Palin and former Joyce Foundation board member Barack Obama's running mate, Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, who takes credit for writing the unsuccessful and now-defunct 1994 Clinton Gun Ban.

A separate National Journal Online story articulates the reasons why the NRA is overlooking John McCain's spotty record of support for gun rights.

One of the biggest battles McCain has had was with the National Rifle Association. He sponsored legislation requiring background checks at guns shows and a bill to tighten campaign finance laws, including restrictions on issue ads by third-party groups in the waning days of an election.

Those stances earned McCain a "C+" rating from the group in his 2004 re-election race after previously consistent 'A' grades in past races.

But in his race against Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, such positions are treated as mild aberrations rather than heresies against the Second Amendment by the NRA's...members. The simple reason is that the NRA considers Obama much, much worse on gun rights with an "F" rating.

NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam went on to acknowledge that "we have had two disagreements with John McCain on gun shows and campaign finance. However, we like to examine everyone's record in its entirety. McCain has a solid pro-gun voting record. There are two disagreements. You contrast that with Barack Obama's record, which is a consistent record of voting against gun rights, hunting rights and even self defense," he said.

Another argument for McCain by the NRA has focused on the dangers of allowing a gun ban extremist like Barack Obama select our next two or three Supreme Court justices. While some gun owners I spoke with after the NRA's Annual Meetings in Louisville found that argument compelling, I remained unconvinced.

As a pro-gun Republican Central committeeman in Fulton Co., Ohio, I found the Republican presidential primary to be quite painful. Perhaps the only top-tier candidate who sported the same pro-gun credentials as Sarah Palin was former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson. As a Thompson delegate-at-large, and having accepted the position of Thompson's Second Amendment Coalition Chair in Ohio, I was deeply disappointed when he exited the race. I promptly turned down an offer extended to me by McCain Ohio campaign chair and former Sen. Mike DeWine, to support the McCain ticket, and hunkered down for what I believed was going to be a long four years for gun owners, no matter which party's candidate became President.

That was then. Today, I am prepared to vote Sarah Palin for Vice President.

In seeking to assuage the concerns of gun owners about his spotty record on guns and rally them to the polls, John McCain couldn't have made a better choice.

Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Vice Chairman.

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