NRA set to bat­tle for sup­port of women

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY DAVID SHERFIN­SKI

IN­DI­ANAPO­LIS | Or­ga­niz­ers be­hind Every­town for Gun Safety, the new ad­vo­cacy group backed by for­mer New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, say one of their top pri­or­i­ties is to turn guns into a women’s is­sue, akin to abor­tion or health care, and mo­bi­lize moth­ers ahead of the midterm elec­tions in Novem­ber.

Women at the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion’s re­cent an­nual meet­ing said, “Bring it on!”

“It shouldn’t be an is­sue and you should be able to just have your Sec­ond Amend­ment and be able to live your life,” said Linda El­liott, 25, a spokes­woman for 1 Mil­lion Moms Against Gun Con­trol.

“But … they make it that im­por­tant be­cause they’re try­ing so hard, so you have to rise to the oc­ca­sion. You have to fight back. So if they’re go­ing to make it an is­sue, then great — go for it.”

Democrats have made it clear that tar­get­ing fe­male vot­ers will be a cen­tral part of their leg­isla­tive strat­egy. In Wash­ing­ton, they are push­ing is­sues such as the Pay­check Fair­ness Act and rais­ing the federal min­i­mum wage to $10.10 an hour, which they say will ben­e­fit women dis­pro­por­tion­ately.

As for ad­vo­cacy ef­forts on guns, Every­town’s com­bin­ing the na­tional pro­file of Mr. Bloomberg’s May­ors Against Il­le­gal Guns with the or­ga­ni­za­tion Moms De­mand Ac­tion for Gun Sense in Amer­ica is a smart strate­gic move, said John Hu­dak, a fel­low in gov­er­nance stud­ies at the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion who tracks the gun is­sue.

“For 20 years, it was es­sen­tially the NRA on one side and no­body who even ap­proached that level of or­ga­ni­za­tion on the other side,” he said. “Are they go­ing to get it done? Maybe, but they don’t know un­til they try. … They’re do­ing all the right things.”

How­ever, the Every­town cam­paign cost Mr. Bloomberg’s group some high-pro­file sup­port at the weekend as for­mer Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Tom Ridge re­signed. Through a spokesman, the for­mer Penn­syl­va­nia gover­nor and the first home­land se­cu­rity sec­re­tary told The Daily Caller, “I am un­com­fort­able with their ex­pected elec­toral work.”

Mr. Bloomberg’s pledge to spend $50 mil­lion on gun con­trol ef­forts this year has clearly lit a fire un­der gun rights sup­port­ers. His name was met with uni­ver­sal scorn and de­ri­sion from speak­ers and au­di­ences in In­di­anapo­lis.

Beth Banis­ter, 28, the group’s Ari­zona state co­or­di­na­tor, said de­fend­ing gun rights is on the side of choice.

“You know with an abor­tion or any­thing else, I should have the choice of any­thing I’m go­ing to do,” she said. “If I want to pro­tect my­self, that women’s right to choose — we should have that op­por­tu­nity, end of story.”

Ms. Banis­ter was look­ing ahead to the fall elec­tions af­ter ex­press­ing dis­ap­point­ment with some of out­go­ing Ari­zona Gov. Jan Brewer’s ve­toes of gun-re­lated leg­is­la­tion. Ms. Banis­ter said she hopes Mari­copa County Sher­iff Joe Ar­paio doesn’t run to fill the Repub­li­can’s seat be­cause he could peel off con­ser­va­tive sup­port and ef­fec­tively boost a Demo­cratic con­tender.

Sta­tis­tics show that many women are on the same page as Ms. El­liott and Ms. Banis­ter.

Fe­male par­tic­i­pa­tion in hunt­ing in­creased 10 per­cent from 2008 to 2012, from 3.04 mil­lion to 3.35 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Shoot­ing Sports Foun­da­tion, the trade group rep­re­sent­ing the firearms and am­mu­ni­tion in­dus­tries.

For­mer Sen. Rick San­to­rum of Penn­syl­va­nia said in his speech over the weekend that his wife, Karen, owns more guns than he does.

“I don’t know about most men, but, you know, the de­fault gift for most men is to buy flow­ers on a spe­cial oc­ca­sion,” he said. “For me, the safe bet: ammo.”

For­mer Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, de­spite be­ing out of elec­tive pol­i­tics for close to five years, revved up a bois­ter­ous crowd at Lu­cas Oil Sta­dium on Satur­day night at the NRA’s “Stand and Fight” rally.

She de­voted part of her speech to an ap­peal to women.

“Maybe our kids could be de­fended against crim­i­nals on the spot if more Mama Griz­zlies car­ried,” she said. “And [the] Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion wants you ID’d for that? Well then, go ahead and carry a sign too. A sign that says, ‘Yeah, I carry a gun, be­cause a cop is too heavy.’”

The NRA an­nual meet­ings in­cluded mul­ti­ple fo­rums ex­clu­sively for women, in­clud­ing the first Women’s New En­ergy Break­fast for at­ten­dees to meet fe­male NRA staff, board mem­bers and vol­un­teers. Among the ex­hibits in the mas­sive hall at the cen­ter of the In­di­ana Con­ven­tion Cen­ter were booths of­fer­ing gun purses and hunt­ing gear for women.

“I think they’re fi­nally re­al­iz­ing that if you just soften it up a lit­tle bit, you know, ap­peal to the women just a lit­tle bit, most of them are itch­ing at the chance to be able to learn how to shoot. They just don’t want to be judged, they don’t want to be looked down on, they don’t want to em­bar­rass them­selves,” Ms. El­liott said. “So if you open that up, women are find­ing out that they can do it.”

Mary Cal­li­son, 31, of Joliet, Ill., said NRA gath­er­ings are im­mensely help­ful even in her deep-blue home state, where like-minded people from states with vary­ing gun poli­cies can come to­gether and strate­gize.

“It lights a fire to make you want to go back and [say] ‘What else can I do? Who else can I call?’” she said. “At­tend the ral­lies. Go to those meet­ings. We have anti-gun ral­lies in Illi­nois all the time. We have to go to those. They’re an hour away, but it’s worth the drive to show them just how much we still care about our rights.”

NRA lead­er­ship made it clear that the group will have a role to play in the fall elec­tion cam­paigns. The top fight be­tween the two ma­jor po­lit­i­cal par­ties will be for con­trol of the U.S. Se­nate.

“If you’re won­der­ing where the NRA’s mus­cle is, it’s right here in this room,” NRA Pres­i­dent Jim Porter said. “There’s mil­lions more of us out there all across Amer­ica, and we’re go­ing to flex that mus­cle in Novem­ber and the [Novem­ber] af­ter that, and I know you can’t wait un­til 2016.”

The moms group plans to flex its own mus­cle. Ms. El­liott said 1 Mil­lion Moms Against Gun Con­trol an­nounced its own su­per PAC over the weekend.

If Colorado can man­age a strong, two-way gover­nor’s race, Ms. El­liott said, gun rights sup­port­ers can turn back some of the gun con­trols that were en­acted last year. Ms. El­liott was in­volved in the suc­cess­ful re­call ef­forts of some state leg­is­la­tors who sup­ported tougher gun con­trol.

Stay­ing ac­tive in Colorado, which had the high-pro­file re­call elec­tions and a po­ten­tially com­pet­i­tive U.S. Se­nate race this fall, is one thing. But Ms. Banis­ter said that keep­ing up pres­sure even in a pro-gun state like Ari­zona is vi­tal as well.

“I get people ask­ing me all the time, ‘Why are you against gun con­trol? We don’t have that prob­lem here in Ari­zona — why are you go­ing down to the cap­i­tal? Why are you sit­ting here and fight­ing all this?’” she said. “Be­cause I’m an Amer­i­can. This is my duty … to wake you up.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pat Kirch­ner of Kanka­kee, Ill., is an ex­am­ple that it’s not only men who are in­ter­ested in the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion and gun rights is­sues. Women, in­clud­ing Sarah Palin, made their voices heard at the an­nual meet­ing in In­di­anapo­lis re­cently.

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