- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 2, 2010

This week’s hostage standoff at the Discovery Channel headquarters in Maryland offers a scary reminder why it’s important for Americans to be able to own and carry firearms. When the public is packing heat, it’s more dangerous for deranged criminals to threaten innocent life because individuals can defend themselves. No organization does more to protect our right to keep and bear arms than the National Rifle Association, and when you go against the NRA, you get thumped. Just ask Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

The powerful Nevada Democrat is reeling from the shock of not getting the gun group’s important endorsement in his uphill re-election bid. NRA decision-makers had to have some ice in the veins to make this call because Mr. Reid is no slouch on gun rights. He routinely deviates from his left-wing party line to vote pro-gun, and he played a central role in helping develop one of the nation’s premier shooting ranges in Clark County, Nev.

This context is important because although Mr. Reid is far more liberal than most pro-gun voters, the NRA is a nonpartisan, single-issue outfit. It’s perennially one of the most effective pressure groups in America because of its laser-pointed focus on the Second Amendment only. This lends itself to an incumbent-friendly endorsement policy for politicians with a positive track record on gun issues, even when they’re running against solid pro-gun challengers. As NRA chief lobbyist Chris W. Cox explained in the August issue of American Rifleman, the association’s magazine: “If we don’t support those who’ve stood shoulder to shoulder with us, there will be no incentive for other lawmakers to stand up to the anti-gun lobby.”

What cost Mr. Reid the NRA nod this year was his lead role in shepherding far-left Obama nominees Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan onto the Supreme Court. At the time of the latter’s confirmation last month, the NRA made clear, “Ms. Kagan presents a clear and present danger to the right to keep and bear arms,” and it unloaded both barrels in trying to shoot down her lifetime appointment.

There were numerous practical considerations in play, such as the possibility that Mr. Reid loses his seat but Democrats maintain control of the Senate. That could mean an irrational anti-gun radical like Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin or New York Sen. Chuck Schumer becomes majority leader. No doubt, increased chances of a Republican landslide that may win control of the Senate made plinking Mr. Reid in the foot a safer gamble, as did recent polls showing him neck-and-neck with pro-gun Tea Party-backed GOP challenger Sharron Angle.

Some stalwarts in the gun community never doubted the NRA would take the right stand. Ted Nugent - who aside from being a rock ‘n’ roll star and Washington Times columnist is on the NRA board of directors - told this page, “I know I speak for the majority of NRA families when I say our beloved NRA activists represent the most basic and most powerful ‘we the people’ pulse in the free world demanding our God-given, U.S. constitutionally guaranteed individual right to keep and bear arms for self-defense, which is the pivot point for American freedoms. As goes the NRA, so go our liberties.”

It was no easy call for the NRA to withhold support from a friend, but it shunned Mr. Reid because he turned his back on the Second Amendment where it counts most: in the Supreme Court.