Af­ter tak­ing cash, Reid now bashes NRA

Tacks to left, charges change within gun lobby

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DINAN

Sen. Harry Reid took nearly $5,000 in cam­paign cash from the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion the last time he ran for elec­tion — which made his vi­cious at­tack on the gun group last week strik­ing.

Af­ter watch­ing his gun con­trol plans founder the night be­fore in com­pet­ing votes on the Se­nate floor, the law­maker from Ne­vada blamed the group for the loss and said the NRA doesn’t mind sus­pected ter­ror­ists get­ting their hands on guns, doesn’t care about Amer­i­cans’ con­sti­tu­tional rights and wor­ries only about its own bot­tom line.

“Here is a lit­tle se­cret for my Repub­li­can col­leagues: The NRA doesn’t care about you. It doesn’t care about your con­stituents. It doesn’t care about the con­sti­tu­tional rights of its fol­low­ers. The NRA and its lead­er­ship care about two things: mak­ing money for gun man­u­fac­tur­ers and mak­ing money for the NRA,” Mr. Reid said as he kicked off the leg­isla­tive ses­sion.

His frus­tra­tion boiled over af­ter he and fel­low Democrats were un­able to win pas­sage of a pro­posal to ban those on se­cret FBI watch lists from buy­ing guns. Even sev­eral Democrats de­fected to vote against the plan, join­ing Repub­li­cans who said the pro­posal en­snared too many Amer­i­cans and de­nied them their Sec­ond Amend­ment rights with­out due process.

Mr. Reid and fel­low Demo­cratic lead­ers lashed out by ac­cus­ing Repub­li­cans of arm­ing Is­lamic State ter­ror­ists.

A com­pro­mise emerged, led by Sen. Su­san M. Collins and eight other sen­a­tors from both sides of the aisle, which would cut the num­ber of lists that can be used to refuse a gun pur­chase and cre­ate a spe­cific path for those de­nied a weapon to chal­lenge this in court.

“All of us are united in our de­sire to get­ting some­thing sig­nif­i­cant done on this vi­tal is­sue,” said Ms. Collins, Maine Repub­li­can.

Mr. Reid said he didn’t ques­tion her mo­tives — though he did ques­tion the rest of the Repub­li­can Party, ac­cus­ing them of cav­ing to the NRA at ev­ery turn.

It was a stark turn­around for a law­maker who used to be ac­cused by fel­low Democrats of hold­ing too close ties with the gun rights group. He voted for NRA pri­or­i­ties, ac­cepted the group’s en­dorse­ment in his 2004 race and sought it in 2010. He didn’t get the en­dorse­ment, but the NRA’s ac­tion fund did con­trib­ute $4,950 to his cam­paign — part of the more than $10,000 in do­na­tions Mr. Reid has col­lected from the group dur­ing his time in Congress, ac­cord­ing to the Sun­light Foun­da­tion.

Dur­ing that 2010 cam­paign Mr. Reid also ap­peared at a gun range with NRA Ex­ec­u­tive Vice Pres­i­dent Wayne La Pierre, who show­ered praise on the sen­a­tor. The NRA also wrote an ef­fu­sive note say­ing it owed any of its leg­isla­tive vic­to­ries over the pre­vi­ous years to Mr. Reid’s role as the leader of Se­nate Democrats.

NRA spokes­woman Jen­nifer Baker sig­naled that the good feel­ings are long over.

“Sen. Reid lies and ex­ploits vic­tims of hor­rific ter­ror­ist at­tacks be­cause he can’t win the ar­gu­ment based on facts,” she said.

She said no­body wants ter­ror­ists to have ac­cess to firearms and that Congress should act — though within the con­fines of the Con­sti­tu­tion, which en­shrines the right to keep and bear arms. She said that can­not be de­prived with­out due process of law.

“Harry Reid ex­em­pli­fies what the Amer­i­can peo­ple hate about politi­cians, and Ne­vadans will be bet­ter served when they have a sen­a­tor who will work to keep them safe from ter­ror­ism and who re­spects the Con­sti­tu­tion they swore to up­hold,” Ms. Baker said.

Mr. Reid’s of­fice didn’t re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment from The Washington Times on whether he would re­turn the NRA’s money.

In his speech last week, Mr. Reid said the NRA has changed. He said in the wake of the 1998 Columbine school shoot­ing, Mr. LaPierre ex­pressed sup­port for uni­ver­sal back­ground checks, in­clud­ing for trans­ac­tions at gun shows, but now op­poses that.

Po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts in Ne­vada say Mr. Reid has been drift­ing left on is­sues for years, in­clud­ing same-sex mar­riage and im­mi­gra­tion, be­cause of his role as Se­nate Demo­cratic leader and be­cause of changes back home.

“When he was first elected to Congress, the state was white, ru­ral-ori­ented and con­ser­va­tive. Now it is the third most ur­ban­ized state in the coun­try, and it will be ma­jor­ity-mi­nor­ity by decade’s end,” said David Damore, a po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist at the Uni­ver­sity of Ne­vada, Las Ve­gas. “Those con­stituen­cies are the Demo­cratic base, and they have be­come more vo­cal and more lib­eral, and he has lis­tened.”

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