By Tom Reynolds
It’s easy to have a personal opinion on political issues but when speaking for an organization, one must attempt to be rational and consistent before giving one’s opinion. Take for instance the issue of endorsing candidates. Most, if not all Second Amendment supporters would agree that the leadership/establishment of the Democratic Party are radically Anti-2A; I doubt if that leadership would deny it. But what happens when an individual candidate comes out of the “Democratic Closet” and supports 2A? Do we support or not support such an exceptional person? My answer is, “It depends”.
Allow me to set out some principles so, “It depends”, is not as wishy-washy as it sounds. At the federal level (the House and the Senate) and the state level (the Assembly and the Senate) the leaders of the majority party (Speaker or Majority Leader) have tremendous power. They decide what does and does not happen. Unfortunately, the Democratic leaders are now firmly members of the Anti-2A establishment. When we elect a legislator, they help put their party in the majority which, in the case of Democrats, means Anti-2A legislation will abound. While a Democratic legislative candidate may truly be pro-2A, I do not believe we can take a chance on electing Democratic leadership, so I would not be able to recommend endorsing such a Democratic candidate in the general election.
But what about non-legislative candidates such as D.A.’s, Sheriffs and judges? They do not create a majority, they are a one person majority! Would I ever recommend supporting a Democrat who is truly pro-2A for D.A., Sheriff or judge? If it was during a Democratic primary, the vision of a pro-2A Democrat running against a pro-2A Republican in the general election is delicious to contemplate. Remember, some gun owners are Democrats and in a district where the Democrats are a majority the Democrat will probably be the eventual winner. So, yes, I could see myself recommending endorsement of a pro-2A Democrat during their primary.
But, what about the general election? First, remember that almost all Republicans give verbal support to 2A when campaigning but many are not exactly rabid in their support, after the election. What if a Democrat, while serving as D.A., Sheriff or judge, had truly demonstrated support for 2A and was running against a Republican who seemed wishy-washy in support of 2A. I might find it possible to cautiously recommend support for the Democrat. I say “might” because of an intangible; these people are products of their political parties and I would have to be convinced they would stand up to the intra-party pressure they would receive. If a true 2A Republican supporter were running against a 2A Democratic supporter, then the Republican has to get the endorsement. Personal character is always to be considered but why take a chance?
Having laid out some principles, what information do we base the decision upon? Rating forms are often used that pick out several important votes to measure how a sitting legislative candidate has voted. Unfortunately, that can be deceptive. Examples from history are effective and we had an excellent example during the Obama Administration of why a rating based on votes is deceptive. Republicans usually ran against Obamacare and voted to repeal it some thirty times; thirty times that never had a chance to be signed into law over Obama’s veto. But since Republicans regained the Presidency, they haven’t yet gotten enough votes together to repeal. So, should they get any credit for thirty meaningless votes which, on paper, seemed to exhibit the desire to repeal Obamacare? If you were rating candidates before a Republican gained the Presidency, you had thirty votes on which to make a rating decision. Of course, you could have ignored the votes because they never had a chance of succeeding (I would have done that). After the election, you had a truer representation and most would probably ignore those earlier thirty votes.
We have a similar problem with 2A legislation here in NY. The NY Assembly and Governor Cuomo are major blocks to any pro-2A legislation. Republicans are constantly introducing bills that have no chance of being enacted into law, but they seek credit for their meaningless efforts. In fairness, Democrats in the Assembly do the same thing and introduce anti-2A bills that will never be approved by the Republican Senate. The Republicans do deserve credit for blocking these bills and it should remind us how tenuous our situation is since just one Senator gives us the majority; if we lose the majority, the craziness out of NY City would become law!
Basing a rating on just votes is, in my opinion, not usually valid, but it is an easy method. More subjectively, there should be a second level of questions. For instance, the legislator should be asked, “You introduced / voted for a pro-2A bill but it never realistically had a chance to become law. Tell us what you did besides introduce/vote for the bill that increased its chance to become law”. Or, you could ask, “Why did you not use the Rent Control issue in 2016 or the 421-A issue in 2017 to help repeal the SAFE Act”. As I stated, the answers are subjective, which makes them harder to rate but the answers are also important.
Of course, there is another element. What happens when a radically Anti-2A candidate is running against a wishy-washy pro-2A candidate? It’s easy to give out the “F” rating but there is always pressure on grade inflation. We don’t want to take a chance that the Anti-2A candidate is elected, so a “C” often becomes an “A” and that candidate proclaims forevermore that S.C.O.P.E. gave them an “A”. My answer to the ratings question is that the most valuable ratings must be a bit subjective and should relay to the reader the rationale as well as the voting history. Also, the ratings should be done by a group and vote counts should be published; for instance, “The ratings committee gave the candidate a “B” by a 3 to 2 vote. The committee was influenced by his lack of support for…”.