Anti-Gun Agenda Cost Candidates for House and Senate

By Jeff Johnson | July 7, 2008 | 8:20 PM EDT

Capitol Hill ( - Republicans focused their mid-term election campaigns on homeland defense and the potential of a war with Iraq while Democrats mainly concentrated on the economy, Social Security, and healthcare issues. But for many candidates in both parties, their position on the Second Amendment played a significant role in their election or defeat.

Preliminary analysis indicates that, of 24 Senate candidates endorsed by the National Rifle Association (NRA), 21 were elected. The South Dakota Senate race is within the 500-vote margin mandating a recount, and would mean an additional NRA victory if Republican Rep. John Thune surpassed incumbent Democrat Sen. Tim Johnson. Even without a Thune victory, the results are a net gain of two pro-gun senators.

The NRA endorsed 246 candidates in House contests. Of those, 230 won, with two - Colorado's 7th district and Texas' 23rd district - still undecided. That represents a net gain of at least 11 pro-gun representatives.

"Were pleased that NRA members, sportsmen and law-abiding gun owners across America answered the call to freedom and helped play a significant role in this great victory for the Second Amendment," said Kelly Whitley, spokeswoman for the NRA.

"This was a clear message to gun ban advocates across the country that the American people believe in the Second Amendment and want candidates who will fight for that freedom," she added.

On Oct. 21, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence released its "Dirty Dozen" list of candidates who "endanger public safety" by their support of the Second Amendment.

"These are the candidates who let the NRA write their campaign speeches. Their records," said campaign chairwoman Sarah Brady, "demonstrate their indifference to public safety."

Of the five Senate candidates opposed by Brady, only one lost, Doug Forrester (R-N.J.). Similarly, only one of the three candidates on the Brady Campaign's House target list, California Republican Dick Monteith, was defeated.

Two of the three House candidates endorsed by the Brady Campaign, including Republican Felix Grucci from New York's 1st congressional district, also lost.

One symbolic defeat for the pro-gun control movement was that of anti-gun incumbent Republican Rep. Connie Morella from Maryland's 8th District. Democrat Chris Van Hollen effectively neutralized the Second Amendment issue during the campaign by attempting to "out gun control" Morella, but Sarah Brady personally supported Morella with commercial endorsements and campaign appearances. Morella lost by more than five percentage points.

Another Brady "Dirty Dozen" list member from Maryland, Republican gubernatorial candidate Robert Ehrlich, also defeated incumbent Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. Townsend had campaigned heavily on her support for stricter gun control laws, and the Brady Campaign launched a last minute "issue ad campaign" Oct. 30, targeting Ehrlich for defeat, despite his support for several gun control measures.

Gun Owners of America spokesman Erich Pratt found the results remarkable, especially because Maryland is considered to be "one of the most anti-gun states in the union.

"The elections in Maryland show how small the Brady Campaign's constituency really is," he said. "We see that [Sarah Brady's] endorsement tended to be the kiss of death for her candidates."

While Whitley was unwilling to speculate in too much detail about how a more gun-friendly Congress might behave, she did offer one prediction.

We're pleased now, and we're going to take it one day at a time," she said. "Hopefully, whether it be in the lame duck or early next session of Congress, we'll see the Senate pass a bill to arm commercial airline pilots. That's something that we've supported since Sept. 11 [2001]."

Pratt was a bit more optimistic.

"We think we're seeing the nail in the coffin as far as many major gun control proposals are concerned," he said.

Calls to the Brady Campaign requesting comment on the election outcome were not returned.

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