Gun Owners of America Makes Foray into Nevada Politics

The Gun Owners of America isn't as well known as the National Rifle Association but is beginning to make headway on the political front and has inserted itself into the nation's debate over the Second Amendment.

The Gun Owners made a major foray into Nevada politics in 2010 by spending $40,325 in an unsuccessful attempt to elect Republican Sharron Angle to the U.S. Senate. The group also made a $2,309 contribution to her campaign, according to OpenSecrets.org, which is run by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Larry Pratt, executive director of the Gun Owners of America, was one of the featured speakers at an April 2011 Second Amendment rally at the Gun Store, 2900 E. Tropicana Ave. The purpose of the rally was to call for passage of a proposed state law to allow concealed carry permit holders to carry firearms on Nevada college campuses. But Senate Bill 231 died in the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

Other speakers at the rally included Amanda Collins, who was raped at gunpoint at the University of Nevada, Reno, in 2007, state Sen. Mark Manendo, D-Las Vegas, Assemblyman John Hambrick, R-Las Vegas, Las Vegas City Councilman Steven Ross, UNLV College Republicans President Mark Ciavola, Nevada Regent Robert Blakely and talk radio host Alan Stock.

During the 2011 session of the Nevada Legislature, Gun Owners also encouraged lawmakers to maintain a maximum $25 renewal fee for holders of concealed carry weapons permits.

For the 2012 election the organization issued a report card for candidates in Nevada congressional races. Republican Sen. Dean Heller earned an ‘A' rating while the challenger he ultimately defeated, Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley, received an ‘F.'

While endorsing Heller, the group described Berkley as "a fervent gun control advocate who has supported the frivolous litigation of gun manufacturers and also supports meaningless waiting periods for law abiding citizens."

Republican Reps. Mark Amodei and Joe Heck, winners in the 2nd and 3rd congressional districts respectively, also received ‘A' grades. Heck was formally endorsed by the group. But winning Democrats Dina Titus in the 1st Congressional District and Steven Horsford in the newly drawn 4th Congressional District were given a ‘D' and ‘C' respectively.

The group also gave Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, an ‘F-' on a list of Senate ratings.

Gun Owners gives ‘A' grades to what it perceives as a "pro-gun voter: philosophically sound," a ‘C' for someone who "leans our way: occasionally," and a ‘D' for an individual who "leans anti-gun: usually against us." Reid's ‘F-' was for being an "anti-gun leader: outspoken anti-gun advocate who carries anti-gun legislation."

The organization has pounded Reid in a series of news releases. In May 2011, Reid was criticized for "abusing his role" as majority leader by blocking a pro-gun amendment that Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., attempted to add to the Patriot Act. The amendment would have exempted the forms firearms purchasers complete when buying guns from a licensed dealer from the "blanket information demands" the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives can make under the Patriot Act.

Gun Owners issued a release in February headlined "Harry Reid Bringing Another Anti-gun Nominee to Senate Floor Soon." This was followed with another release in April carrying the headline "Reid to Push Gun-Grabbing Judge for Nevada." The latter was in reference to Reid's support of Clark County District Court Judge Elissa Cadish, who was nominated in February by President Barack Obama to serve as a federal judge in Nevada.

The nomination got hung up in the Senate Judiciary Committee after Heller raised objections. Typically, the committee won't approve a judicial nominee without support from both senators in the state where the individual would serve. Both Heller and Gun Owners oppose Cadish because of her initial opposition to the Second Amendment's gun rights. The organization quoted her as informing Citizens for Responsible Government in 2008 that she didn't believe individuals had a constitutional right to keep and bear arms.

"Thus, I believe that reasonable restrictions may be imposed on gun ownership in the interest of public safety," Cadish was quoted as stating. "Of course, I will enforce the laws as they exist as a judge."

Cadish later amended her position after a U.S. Supreme Court decision in a high profile gun rights case that upheld an individual's right to possess firearms for lawful purposes. That didn't satisfy Gun Owners or Heller, who has continued to hold up the nomination.

"But in response to Sen. Heller's standing firm, every gun-hating liberal in Nevada -- including Harry Reid -- have (sic) crawled out of the woodwork to blast his efforts to protect the right to keep and bear arms," Gun Owners stated.

"Sen. Heller is not backing down from this fight, in the face of enormous political pressure from the White House and the powerful majority leader. We need to encourage him to continue to hold firm, and to rally other senators in opposition to this nominee."


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