- - Tuesday, May 19, 2015

As a freedom-lover and avid outdoorsman, I understand the importance of protecting the Second Amendment, which has been under attack by liberal special interest groups funded by elitist billionaires. The number-one defender of the Second Amendment rights is the National Rifle Association. The NRA works tirelessly to elect pro-Second Amendment candidates, and it fights fearlessly to win tough public policy battles and preserve those rights.

The NRA has earned its reputation as one of the most trusted, respected and reliable protectors of our constitutional freedoms. All elected officials — whether they’re a city council member, state legislator or member of Congress — know that if they stand up for the Second Amendment, the NRA will stand up for them. And when it comes to shaping public policy, the NRA is one of the rare national advocacy organizations that actually says what it means, and then backs it up with results.

As the former state speaker of the North Caroline House of Representatives, I helped push two landmark bills that protected and expanded gun rights for citizens. In 2011 we passed legislation that established the Castle Doctrine in North Carolina, which gave citizens the legal right to use deadly force to defend themselves in their homes. We followed it up in 2013 by expanding concealed carry locations across the state and establishing much-needed privacy protections for concealed carry holders.

Those important bills would have never even seen the light of day without the sustained public support of the NRA, which also played a pivotal role in electing a majority in the North Carolina Legislature that was committed to expanding our Second Amendment rights.

The tremendous success of the NRA would not be possible without the support and dedication of its 4.5 million members across the nation. The NRA is a true grass-roots organization, and the collective power of its membership is simply unparalleled.

I know firsthand about the power of the NRA grass roots after receiving the NRA Political Victory Fund’s endorsement in April 2014, which came at a critical time, just weeks before the hotly contested Republican Senate primary. From that moment on, countless North Carolinians approached me on the campaign trail to tell me that I had their votes for one simple reason: my proven record of advancing Second Amendment rights. The reason they knew about my record was because of the NRA’S peerless grass-roots mobilization, which quickly got the word out and ultimately helped tip the scales for my campaign.

The NRA-PVF’s endorsement was instrumental in preventing a costly runoff election, which would have sapped valuable resources and severely damaged the prospects of defeating the Democratic incumbent in the general election.

Liberal groups, including one funded by Michael Bloomberg, began attacking me even before I was nominated. And by Election Day in November, they’d spent more in North Carolina against me than in any other state. My Democratic opponent had Bloomberg in her corner, but I had the advantage because I had the NRA behind me. Public records show the NRA spent $4.4 million in North Carolina outlining the differences on the Second Amendment, and every penny mattered. The fliers in gun shops, the postcards to gun owners, the TV ads, the Internet ads — they all mattered.

Once I was sworn in as a senator, I quickly had the opportunity to again see the incredible influence of the NRA grass-roots members, this time in response to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms’ attempt to ban the popular M855 hunting ammo. NRA members quickly mobilized a groundswell of public opposition to the ban. Phone lines in Washington were ringing off the hook, and the NRA worked directly with congressional leaders to draft a letter to the ATF, calling on the agency to stop its unconstitutional gun restrictions. In the end, 80,000 comments were sent to the White House, and a majority of members of both the House and Senate signed letters to the ATF. The widespread public opposition caused the ATF to withdraw the proposed ban.

I, like millions of other Americans, am grateful for the tremendous effort and resources the NRA devotes to winning elections and its unwavering determination in stopping the attempts of unelected bureaucrats and out-of-the-mainstream liberal politicians to implement gun control laws that infringe upon the rights of law-abiding citizens. The question in Washington is never whether the NRA and its members will show up and stand for the Second Amendment, but rather whether our elected representatives will have the courage to back up their rhetoric with action in the pursuit of freedom.

It matters who wins elections because it matters who governs. Our nation is fortunate that NRA members vote like our freedom depends on it — because it does.

Thom Tillis is a Republican serving as the junior U.S. Senator from North Carolina.

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