Today, RedState.com's Erick Erickson wrote, "Multiple sources tell me the National Rifle Association is planning to endorse liberal Harry Reid against pro-gun champion Sharron Angle." The NRA's chief lobbyist, Chris Cox, told THE WEEKLY STANDARD this evening that the pro-gun rights group has not decided on an endorsement in the Nevada Senate race.
"Any discussion on endorsements at this stage are premature, and simply a distraction," said Cox. But he wouldn't rule out an NRA endorsement for Harry Reid--even though Reid will almost certainly vote in favor of confirming Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. The NRA released a letter today explaining why it opposes Kagan and would score how senators vote on her confirmation. But Cox said that "we look at the entirety of someone’s record" before making an endorsement.
The NRA is frightened by the possibility that Harry Reid would be replaced by an anti-gun Democrat as majority leader. "Truthfully, the two individuals vying for majority leader should Harry Reid lose are the two most rabidly anti-gun, anti-Second Amendment senators in Washington, Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin," Cox said. "Does that give concern to NRA members and gun owners all over America? Absolutely, it does."
But wouldn't the House be able to stop legislation the NRA opposes? "That's all hypothetical," Cox replied, adding that Durbin and Schumer have a "long history of supporting rabid anti-gun groups and their extreme gun control agendas. Anyone who discounts the role of a Senate majority leader … would do so at their own peril."
In Reid's case the NRA will have to weigh what he can do for its legislative agenda against his votes for Sotomayor and Kagan (and votes against some NRA-backed measures). The Supreme Court's 5-4 verdicts striking down gun bans in the District of Columbia and Chicago could easily be reversed if Obama gets to replace one of the justices who ruled against the bans.
Cox said the NRA's legislative priorities include "all sorts of things," such as making Washington, D.C. make gun ownership less burdensome, improving right-to-carry reciprocity, and gun-related issues "in almost every appropriations bill."
Cox dismissed the notion floated by RedState's Erick Erickson that a major reason the NRA would endorse Reid is because he secured a $61 million earmark for a gun range in Nevada. Still, Cox called the range "the most impressive shooting facility in the world" and acknowledged that "we gave Senator Reid credit along with other people from the delegation who worked to secure funding for that range."
Without calling out RedState by name, Cox lashed out at "one particular blog that seems to have a problem with defending positions that have proven to be false" for spreading the claim that the NRA is planning to endorse Reid. "The same blog threw out there that … I had put out a gag order on the members of our board of directors because I had cut a deal to be neutral on Elena Kagan based on the DISCLOSE Act. Well, first of all Ted Nugent’s on our board. Anybody who thinks you could gag Ted Nugent doesn’t know him. It’s outrageous. And it was a lie to suggest there was a gag on our board of directors."