- Associated Press - Sunday, July 15, 2012

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Threats, denunciations and verbal potshots between the National Rifle Association and the leaders of the state General Assembly were common in the decades that Democrats ran the show in the Tennessee Capitol. Turns out Republicans are just as good at running afoul of the powerful gun rights group.

GOP leaders in Nashville infuriated the NRA this year by refusing to go along with a bill to prevent businesses from banning guns on their property, and now the group is using its deep pockets to try to unseat one of them. Elsewhere, NRA-backed measures also ran into Republican roadblocks in Georgia, Alabama, Idaho and North Carolina this year.

The NRA notes recent successes in the legislatures of Virginia, Ohio and South Carolina, describing the recent setbacks as temporary.

“First of all the legislative process is rarely quick and is rarely pretty,” chief NRA lobbyist Chris W. Cox said in a phone interview. “We certainly take the long view, and we’re committed to bring this not only to Tennessee, but across the country.”

The NRA is backing up its words with campaign cash in Tennessee, spending $75,000 in an effort to defeat the No. 3 Republican in the state House, Rep. Debra Maggart of Hendersonville.

The effort includes a billboard that depicts Ms. Maggart shoulder to shoulder with President Obama, who is deeply unpopular in Tennessee.

“Defend Freedom — Defeat Maggart on August 2,” the sign says, referring to the date of the Republican primary. Early voting began Friday.

House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick of Chattanooga said the traditional alliance between Republican lawmakers and the NRA has had very little meaning in recent years.

“They’re our allies as long as it is in their self-interest — and I don’t think it’s in their self-interest anymore,” Mr. McCormick said. “Now that we’re the governing party, they’re going to be critical. They’re never going to be satisfied.”

“The NRA has put itself so far out on a limb that they’ve lost a lot of credibility, and I think you’ll see the results of that on Election Day when Debra Maggart gets re-elected,” Mr. McCormick said.

In North Carolina, the NRA lamented the failure of the Republican-controlled Senate to approve a bill to allow concealed permit holders to carry their guns in restaurants where alcohol is served. Chamber leader Phil Berger said the Senate wanted to take its time on the bill, and some Republicans had raised concerns about mixing alcohol and firearms.

Before the legislative session in Idaho this year, the NRA openly planned to resurrect a bill to allow students at state universities to carry concealed weapons on campus. But no bill was introduced to replace the measure that died in the Republican-controlled Senate the previous year. The NRA’s plans were likely dashed after a mentally ill professor at the University of Idaho gunned down a former student and lover before shooting himself in August.

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