Sunday, March 07, 2004

GOP Drops Charade and Renames Itself NRA

WASHINGTON, March 2 — The Senate on Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected a measure to shield gun manufacturers and dealers from lawsuits. The defeat came after a roller-coaster day in which Republicans abruptly withdrew their support for the bill because Democrats had tacked on amendments to renew the 10-year assault weapons ban and require background checks on customers at gun shows.

"This is a huge victory," said Richard Aborn, former president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. "Kerry has placed the gun issue on assault weapons firmly back into the presidential debate."

But Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, which has made legal immunity for gun makers and dealers one of its top legislative priorities, predicted the votes would hurt Democrats. Referring to the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Mr. LaPierre said, "I can just see Terry McAuliffe cringing in his office all day long."

The defeat of the immunity bill came after Mr. LaPierre sent e-mail messages to senators urging them to reject it. Some Senate Democrats who supported immunity were spotted reading the e-mail message on their BlackBerry pagers; within minutes, a copy of the message — in which Mr. LaPierre said his group would use the vote "in our future evaluations and endorsement of candidates" — was circulating in the Democrats' cloakroom.

"I'm a bit numb," said Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, the lead sponsor of the assault weapons ban, said after the final vote. Of the rifle association, she said: "They had the power to turn around at least 60 votes in the Senate. That's amazing to me."

Richard Aborn is nothing if not proof that optimism lives. If the power of the NRA over our government frightens and infuriates you, go to STOP The NRA, join the Blacklist, (get hope from seeing all the cool people that are on the list) and tell everyone you know about it.

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