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NRA, Biden Push Guns Back Into Political Spotlight

2013 NRA Annual Meeting and Exhibits; photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

An young attendee inspects a rifle Saturday during the 2013 NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits in Houston. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

If there is one thing supporters and opponents of tougher gun laws can agree on, it’s that their fight is far from over.

Leaders of the National Rifle Association told members attending the group’s annual convention in Houston over the weekend they would not back down from attempts to strip away their constitutional right to possess firearms.

“We are in the midst of a once-in-a-generation fight for everything we care about,” NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre said during his remarks on Saturday. “We must remain vigilant, ever resolute, and steadfastly growing and preparing for the even more critical battles that loom before us,” he added.

LaPierre also sought to link the issue of gun rights to last month’s Boston Marathon bombings.

“How many Bostonians wish they had a gun two weeks ago?” LaPierre asked the several thousand in attendance. “How many other Americans now ponder that life or death question?”

USA Today’s Gregory Korte reports that the NRA board is expected to elect James Porter as its new president Monday. Korte writes that the selection of Porter to replace outgoing president David Keene “is one of many defiant signals” to emerge from the weekend gathering:

Porter, 64, a lawyer from Birmingham, Ala., who defends gun manufacturers, has been building that outrage his whole life. His father, Irvine C. Porter, was president of the NRA in 1959 — when the son says the NRA was “a glorified shooting society.” At a breakfast Friday, Porter told grass-roots organizers that they are on the front line of a “culture war.”

“He seems to come out of a mold that’s much closer to the base than David Keene,” said Josh Horwitz of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. Whereas Keene was a “steady hand” for the NRA amid controversy, Porter is “a complete wild card,” Horwitz said. “The world’s changing around them, and they’re hunkering down.”

Gun control advocates, meanwhile, are pledging to forge ahead despite last month’s defeat of legislation to expand background checks on most gun sales.

President Barack Obama included the issue in his speech on economic security in Mexico last Friday, pressing that a stricter U.S. guns policy could help quell arms trafficking into the violence-plagued country.

Vice President Joe Biden renewed his push for gun control legislation in a Sunday op-ed for the Houston Chronicle, calling on lawmakers to stand up to the NRA:

For too long, members of Congress have been afraid to vote against the wishes of the NRA, even when the vast majority of their constituents support what the NRA opposes. That fear has become such an article of faith that even in the face of evidence to the contrary, a number of senators voted against basic background checks, against a federal gun trafficking statute and against other common-sense measures because they feared a backlash.

Today, those very senators are discovering that the political landscape really did change. They are learning that Newtown really did shock the conscience of the nation and that inaction will not be tolerated by Democrats, Republicans or independents.

Biden pointed to automated public opinion surveys from the left-leaning Public Policy Polling, which showed approval ratings for Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., dropped sharply following his vote against the background check measure, while two supporters of the proposal — Democratic Sens. Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana — saw their standing in the eyes of voters improve.

North Carolina voters said they were 52 percent more likely to support Hagan because of her “yes” vote on the amendment put forward by West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin and Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey, while 42 percent of Louisianans said the same about Landrieu.

PPP found that Flake’s approval rating had fallen to 32 percent in its survey. The freshman senator wrote on Facebook that the approval rating, combined with the public’s unhappiness with Congress, put him “just below pond scum,” and that his decline may have been due in part to his vote on the Manchin-Toomey provision.

Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire was the subject of much media attention during a series of town hall meetings last week as she faced scrutiny from gun control proponents over her “no” vote on the legislation.

It’s unclear how much this reaction is anecdotal, especially for Ayotte, and if it will hold or grow to make a difference when an election arrives. Earlier last month, the Gallup survey found only 4 percent of Americans felt guns policy to be the most concerning issue, falling well behind health care, the federal budget deficit and the economy. And as of September 2012, the Pew Research Center didn’t even include gun policy when asking about voters’ priorities.

Politico reported last week that the vice president is planning “a new gun control offensive” designed to bolster support for expanded background checks and another proposal to address gun trafficking, which also failed to pass the Senate last month.

Manchin says he remains committed to the background check issue and hopes the proposal will get a second chance on the floor of the Senate before the August recess. After its initial defeat, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., “hit pause” on the background check measure, and it’s unclear when it will get another shot.

At least in the short term, gun control advocates are going to have to wait, as the growing debate over comprehensive immigration reform is likely to take up much of the air on Capitol Hill with a series of hearings scheduled this week.


  • Reuters reports that members of the House are “still struggling” to write an immigration reform bill, in part because they are hung up over guest-worker programs sought by businesses.

  • Senators are expected to file hundreds of amendments to the immigration bill this week before markup begins in the Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

  • The Gang of Eight has outlined tiers of moderate Republicans, conservative Democrats and more conservative Republicans whom they’ll need for immigration legislation to pass the Senate and be propelled through the House.

  • The New York Times previews the challenges Secretary of Commerce nominee Penny Pritzker may face, drawing on written answers she provided to the Times’ questions in 2008.

  • Bloomberg News headlines “Gore Is Romney-Rich” with this in-depth piece on the former vice president’s ballooning empire.

  • Republican Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has pulled ahead by 10 points among certain voters in his race against political operative and businessman Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, for the Virginia governor’s seat, the Washington Post polls.

  • Florida won’t expand its Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act because its legislature ran out of time.

  • The Center for Responsive Politics fleshes out the spending in the South Carolina 1st Congressional District special election.

  • Chris Cillizza of the Post argues that former GOP Gov. Mark Sanford, of Appalachian Trail, trespassing and Alamo-related newspaper ad fame, just might win a Senate seat in South Carolina.

  • The aforementioned Public Policy Polling finds Sanford with a statistically insignificant one-point lead over Democratic challenger Elizabeth Colbert Busch in the twilight of the race, 47 percent to 46 percent. That includes a potential spoiler from a Green Party candidate polling at 4 percent.

  • Because we know you can’t get enough of this race, here’s the weekend story from Huffington Post’s Jon Ward, in which Sanford puts Ward on the phone with his son.

  • Really, the elections fun never stops in South Carolina. Biden and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, drew 2016 presidential race attention this weekend for speaking at partisan dinners.

  • The Miami Herald explains a change to the presidential primaries in Florida prompted by GOP Sen. Marco Rubio.

  • Alaska GOP Gov. Sean Parnell will seek re-election in 2014.

  • In the Massachusetts Senate special election, Democratic Rep. Ed Markey leads Republican Gabriel Gomez by four percentage points in an automated survey conducted by the left-leaning Public Policy Polling.

  • NPR profiles Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., his re-election campaign, dipping poll numbers and appeal to blue collar voters.

  • Peter Overby of NPR looks into the lobbying industry and what’s taking place in the shadows.

  • The Wall Street Journal offers a sneak peek at Treasury Secretary Jack Lew’s new signature. It appears he has fulfilled Mr. Obama’s requirement that it contain at least one legible letter.

  • Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, asked for a routine waiver from disclosing gifts received for his April 20 nuptials.

  • Roll Call’s Abby Livingston continues her roundup of members of Congress set in fictional works. This edition: Who fits in a children’s novel.

  • An awesome map of Washington, D.C., property values circa 1879.


  • Mark Shields and Michael Gerson, filling in for David Brooks, talked about Paul Solman’s intense story about older workers struggling to make ends meet and whether Mr. Obama has the “juice.”

Watch here or below:


Christina Bellantoni and desk assistant Simone Pathe contributed to this report.

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