Opinion: The NRA’s Rating/Endorsement System is Severely Flawed

The following opinion piece is by Greg Pruett, President of the Idaho Second Amendment Alliance and Editor of 2nd Amendment Daily News.

The short answer to this question is yes, the NRA’s rating system is flawed, and it hurts the cause of liberty.

There is perhaps nothing more sought after by a Republican candidate running for office than getting an “A” rating by the National Rifle Association and the famous “orange card” with the NRA’s endorsement.

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Political candidates boast about their ratings and/or endorsements each election cycle. Republican candidates are more than happy to do so to try and bolster their 2nd Amendment credentials.

So, the big question you may have is, how exactly is the NRA’s rating system (including endorsements) hurting the cause of liberty? Well, there are several reasons, so please allow me some time to explain.

First, one-issue organizations endorsing candidates is, generally speaking, a bad idea.

In my home state of Idaho, being pro-2nd Amendment is a position you must hold if you want any chance of getting elected. You can’t come out on the wrong side of that issue in most of the state and survive politically.

Every candidate I have researched during election season in Idaho has proclaimed they are “pro-2nd Amendment.”

The problem is, It’s easy to be pro-2nd Amendment in Idaho, but then be a socialist on every other issue. Sure, maybe you voted for the watered-down “pro-gun” bills that were pushed by the NRA, or maybe you filled out a survey correctly on guns, but you voted for or support big government on spending, education, social policies, and more.

A large chunk of Idaho’s Republican legislature falls into this category. It’s been a problem on a national scale for many years.

For instance, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) will tell you he is a supporter of the 2nd Amendment. Yet, he is an open advocate for Red Flag Gun Confiscation orders. Somehow he still has an A rating with the NRA. (Graham is rated as a “D” in the Gun Owners of America rating system.)

The Independent even labeled Graham as someone who might make a deal with gun grabbers.

Despite Graham’s gun control desires, he is able to use his “A” rating to keep the support of gun owners. In the meantime, he continues to support big government on so many other fronts because he uses the NRA on the gun front to make himself appear more conservative than he is.

So, how does his rating and endorsement help the cause of liberty when he is not only bad on guns but also bad on every other liberty issue?

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) has an A rating with the NRA. Romney is perhaps the biggest RINO in the U.S. Senate, and is no friend of the 2nd Amendment. (Gun Owners of America rated him a D in their last rating.)

It’s too easy for someone like Romney, especially in a state like Utah, to claim the “pro-2nd Amendment” mantle when Romney is not pro-2nd Amendment, and has a very anti-2nd Amendment past.

Because the 2nd Amendment is so important to nearly half of the country, an endorsement from a gun group holds a lot of sway with voters. The NRA certainly isn’t the only one-issue group to endorse candidates, but how many fake Republicans have won an election simply because the NRA endorses them and gives them an A rating?

The second reason the NRA rating system is flawed is because it often doesn’t account for outside factors.

Perhaps this problem has been unique to Idaho, but maybe other pro-2A activists have experienced it in their states as well. In fact, I know 2A activists in other states who have told me similar stories to the one I am going to share.

Several years ago, a Republican candidate and incumbent State Representative named Paul Romrell was running for re-election. The Idaho Second Amendment Alliance sent out our candidate survey and Romrell told us in his reply that he was not a fan of “large” magazines and that they gave him “heartburn.”

The NRA had already given him their support before, and Romrell was likely going to get their endorsement again.

We notified the NRA of what Romrell had said in our survey. The NRA lobbyist at the time said they would look into it, and nothing ever happened. There was no change to his endorsement or rating.

Other times, elected officials have made votes in committee that were anti-2nd Amendment. Did the NRA punish them for those votes? No. But our organization made sure to call out the elected officials for their betrayal and we always have.

I have also seen elected officials or candidates make statements in writing or on video opposing the right to keep and bear arms in various forms. Nothing was ever done to those candidates either.

What good is the rating system or endorsements if they only help move the cause of liberty on one front and if they NRA isn’t willing to listen to gun owners on the ground in their respective states when things aren’t what they appear to be?

A third concern is that the NRA has compromised on the 2nd Amendment so many times, that a voter who assumes the NRA believes in the “shall not be infringed” portion of the 2nd Amendment, believes that candidates receiving the “A rating” or the NRA endorsement means they are supporting someone who also believes in “shall not be infringed.”

The problem is, for years now, the NRA has helped write gun control or compromised on the right to keep and bear arms at the legislative level..

Even here in Idaho, I witnessed their willingness to compromise on the right to keep and bear arms in order to get a victory.

My organization began with the purpose of passing Constitutional Carry in Idaho. A the time of our founding (2012) there were only four states with Constitutional Carry.

During our years of laying the groundwork for Constitutional Carry, the NRA was fighting it behind the scenes. Their lobbyist had told a number of lawmakers that Constitutional Carry wasn’t an issue that should be pursued.

However, in 2016, after we had gotten Constitutional Carry to the brink of passage, the NRA finally got on board. Sadly, their involvement wasn’t what we would have hoped, and nearly turned to disaster.

You see, Idaho already had Constitutional Carry outside of city limits. If you were an American, 18 years old or older, you could carry without a permit. What we were trying to do was extend Constitutional Carry to inside the city limits for Americans who were 18-years-old and older.

However, towards the end of legislative session, the NRA went behind closed doors with lawmakers to push a version of Constitutional Carry which REMOVED it from all Americans outside of city limits, and also removed it from those who were 18-20 years old, whether they were Idahoans or not.

When we found out about the NRA’s gun control they slipped into the Constitutional Carry bill, we protested outside the Idaho Senate chambers. The bill failed. We refused to accept gun control, even if it meant the issue we cared so deeply about was dead for the year.

It would have been easy for me just to accept the bill as a victory for gun owners, but I wasn’t willing to do that. In a state with so many Republicans, why was the NRA pushing gun control?

If the NRA was willing to compromise in Idaho, in a way that most of Idaho’s gun owners still don’t know about, what are they doing all over the country, in congress, or the White House that you also don’t know about?

“But Greg, doesn’t the Idaho Second Amendment Alliance send out surveys to candidates?”

Yes, however, we do not endorse candidates. Candidates weak on the 2nd Amendment refuse to return our survey because they know we’ll hold them accountable for it.

Our survey also differs in that you either answer 100% pro-2nd Amendment or you don’t. There is nothing in-between. Additionally, we also take into account statements made in committees, candidate forums, online on social media, or other places when informing voters of where you stand.

“Greg, what if a candidate is lying on their survey?”

That’s a possibility and it probably happens. The point of the survey is that we can use it to inform voters about where a candidate stands. If that person gets elected and betrays what they had put on the survey (and more importantly their oath of office), we will inform their voters about their betrayal at the next election cycle.

We also use the survey during the legislative process to find out if they will hold true to supporting a bill they said they would support, or opposing a bill they said they would oppose.

At the end of the day though, we have to ask what good is the NRA rating system and endorsements if the socialist-Republicans are using it as well as the hard-core conservative candidates?

If the group has compromised, and continues to compromise, does their endorsement mean “shall not be infringed” or is it just easy to use them because they are the largest gun group in the country?

Is it really anything more than a way for anti-2nd Amendment Republicans to claim they are pro-2nd Amendment, knowing the NRA pushes forms of gun control, waters down pro-2nd Amendment bills, and the odds of them being held accountable are fairly low?

What are your thoughts on the NRA rating/endorsement system? Let me know in the comments.

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