The National Rifle Association is not an avid booster of Scott Brown, certainly, but the powerful pro-Second Amendment group prefers him over Jeanne Shaheen in the New Hampshire U.S. Senate race.
Brown is not among the Senate candidates the NRA has endorsed in mid-term elections, but the group working – and spending – to elect him anyway.
The theme of its campaign is to “defeat Jeanne Shaheen.” While not saying so, obviously, that means electing Scott Brown.
While the NRA Political Victory Fund is taking a much stronger stance in other states, it does have web ads up for New Hampshire viewers saying, “Don’t Let Jeanne Shaheen Threaten Your Freedom.” The ads lead to a NRA-PVF web page devoted to Shaheen.
The page features a video aimed at trying to close the gender gap that currently has Shaheen far ahead among women. And it plays on the choice issue, which is currently dominating the Shaheen-Brown Senate race.
But it’s a different kind of choice issue than New Hampshire votes have hearing lately.
“Should you have a right to make your own choices?” a middle aged woman asks in the video. “Or should politicians in Washington make those choices for you?”
She goes on to say, “I’m talking about your right to self-defense. You should be able to choose the firearm that’s right for you. It should be your choice.
“Defend your right to self-defense,” the woman says. “Defeat Senator Shaheen.”
The web page lists areas in which the NRA says Shaheen voted with President Barack Obama and gun control activist former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Those positions include supporting universal background checks, a ban on semi-automatic rifles, in favor of limiting the size of magazines and opposing concealed carry reciprocity.
In recent weeks, the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action dropped a direct mail piece insisting, “Jeanne Shaheen can’t be trusted to protect your rights.”
It includes photos of President Obama and former Bloomberg and declares, “Jeanne Shaheen wil not stand up to the Obama/Bloombert gun control agenda.” Included in that agenda, which says Shaheen supports, is the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty, labeled by the NRA as the “gun ban treaty.”
The treaty has a goal of setting standards for all cross-border transfers of conventional weapons ranging from small firearms to tanks and attack helicopters.
There is no mention of Brown on the NRA’s anti-Shaheen web site or in its direct mail piece.
While Shaheen received an “F” rating from the NRA this year, Brown received a question mark, meaning that he “refused to answer” the NRA’s candidate questionnaire, according to the NRA-PVF web site. Brown has said he does not fill out questionnaires or take pledges.
The NRA has not yet responded to the New Hampshire Journal’s inquiries about its involvement in the New Hampshire Senate race. And the Brown campaign had no comment.
Although Brown has said he has a lifetime “A-“ rating from the NRA, the organization and other pro-gun groups and activists have been critical of him, especially since he announced support for a federal assault weapons ban following the massacre of school children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Earlier this week, however, in a debate with Shaheen in North Conway, Brown said he opposed legislation that would limit the size of ammunition magazines, while Shaheen said she would support it.
But besides this year’s question mark from the NRA, Brown has had mixed reviews from the NRA and other and pro-Second Amendment groups in the past.
Earlier this year, his grade from the New Hampshire Firearms Coalition was an “F.” In 2012, he received a “50 percent” rating from the Gun Owners of America and a 42 percent rating from the NRA.
GOA gave him a 73 percent rating in 2010. In 2000, 2006 and 2008, he received “A” ratings from the NRA.
Still, pro-gun activists were not enthused about Brown earlier this year, when most backed Bob Smith or Jim Rubens over him in the GOP primary.
As early as last winter, before he became a candidate, about 200 gun rights activists protested his appearance at a Republican Party event in Nashua.
He had a difficult meeting in May with the Gun Owners of New Hampshire, but afterward was commended for going into what one who was there called the “lion’s den” and answering tough questions.
“His answers were his carefully crafted and highly noncommittal in a number of areas, but he’s a likable guy, frankly,” the source told the Journal after that meeting. “He was courageous to come into that environment. I’m sure he knew what was ahead of him.
“He fielded every single question and he defended himself quite well on a lot of those issues. They may not have been the answers we wanted to hear, but he was tough enough to come into the lion’s den and he is to be commended for that, for sure,” the attendee said afterward.
Will the NRA’s advertising against Shaheen influence local pro-gun activists to support Brown in what is projected at this point in time to be a close election?
That remains to be seen.
But there has been discussion on the internet about a write-in campaign for “John Stark” as a protest against Brown, based in part on the Second Amendment issue. One supporter of the idea told the Journal even if Stark receives “1 or 2 percent” of the vote, “it will send a message.”
And it just may decide an election.