Senator John McCain and Gun Owners: A Strained Relationship


You might have assumed that the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) recent endorsement of Arizona Senator John McCain ( R ) for president was a slam dunk, especially given the anti-gun record of his opponent, Illinois Senator Barack Obama (D).  Yet, while the NRA is definitely opposed to Obama, its relationship with McCain has been a difficult one, even with the endorsement.

Speaking about McCain’s record, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre told the Associated Press, “He's cast more than 60 votes in the Senate in support of the Second Amendment.”

In a prepared statement, LaPierre added, “John McCain has more than two decades of pro-gun and pro-hunting votes in Congress. He has stood time and again to preserve our Second Amendment freedom and our rich hunting heritage.”

All good.  So why the friction? Well, as the National Journal reported in September,  “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.”

“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,” NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam told the National Journal.

Certainly, McCain helped his cause when he picked Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate.

As Newsweek reported, “Like many Alaskans…Palin is a lifelong hunter and strong proponent of Second Amendment rights. A longtime member of the National Rifle Association, she told USA Today when she was running for governor as a Republican in 2006 that, ‘We hunt as much as we can, and I'm proud to say our freezer is full of wild game we harvested here in Alaska.’”

In addition, “Palin publicly applauded the Supreme Court's recent 5-4 ruling in District of Columbia vs. Heller that struck down the District's 32-year-old ban on handguns.”

So, too, did McCain, who used the Court’s decision to publicly affirm that the Second Amendment was an individual civil right.

Yet, that did not sway the Montana Shooting Sports Association, which endorsed Ron Paul over John McCain and Barack Obama.  McCain, though, received a backhanded sort of endorsement.

According to the Associated Press, “The group gave Republican John McCain a D in its scorecard. [Democrat] Obama got an F. Paul, on the ballot under the Constitution Party banner in Montana, got a A from the group.  But the MSSA says ‘pragmatic’ voters should choose McCain, because he is not as bad on gun issues as Obama.”

Meanwhile, Gun Owners of America (GOA) remained unconvinced on McCain.  As John Velleco, GOA’s Director of Federal Affairs, wrote, McCain flip-flopped on gun control during his 2000 presidential run, when he spoke in favor of banning so-called “Saturday Night Special” handguns.

In addition, McCain, “entertained the idea of supporting the ‘assault weapons' ban. His flirtation with anti-Second Amendment legislation quickly led to a political marriage of convenience with [the anti-gun group Americans for Gun Safety.]  Within months of the formation of AGS, McCain was featured in radio and television ads in Colorado and Oregon supporting initiatives to severely regulate gun shows and register gun buyers. Anti-gunners were ecstatic to get McCain on board.”

According to Velleco, “In fact, as recently as 2004, McCain was able to force a vote on a gun show amendment…John McCain tried running for president in 2000 as an anti-gunner. This year it appears he is seeking to ‘come home’ to the pro-gun community, but the wounds are deep and memories long.”

Yet, no presidential election is run in a vacuum.  McCain, after all, is running against someone.

As NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam told the National Journal.  “McCain has a solid pro-gun voting record. There are two disagreements. You [have to] contrast that with Barack Obama's record, which is a consistent record of voting against gun rights, hunting rights and even self defense.”

To read Part 1 of this special election series The Senator from Illinois, Click Here.
To read Part 3, Key Federal Races, Click Here
To read Part 4, State & Local Issues, Click Here


McCain NRA AP 10/9/08:

NRA La Pierre statement,  McCain, RTT 10/9/08:

McCain NRA National Journal 9/2/08:

Palin, Newsweek 8/29/08:

MT group, AP story on, 9/12/08:

GOA McCain:


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