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MALLOY: NRA not backing away from guns, or Trump

| April 25, 2023 1:00 AM

If the National Rifle Association’s annual convention is an indication of where Republicans are in presidential politics, the party’s nomination practically is a foregone conclusion. Former President Trump will win, hands down.

Former Idaho Sen. Larry Craig, an NRA board member since 1982, said delegates at the recent convention in Indianapolis made it clear where they stood.

Others made strong impressions, including former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis sent a recording that was well received and a smattering of boos greeted former Vice President Mike Pence. But it was Trump’s show, and he continues to thrive in the wake of an indictment filed by the Manhattan prosecutor.

“Trump was Trump,” Craig told me. “He played to the crowd and the crowd played back. They were there to see their president.”

And while the NRA is a non-partisan lobbying group, at least officially, there are good reasons for NRA members to support Trump. Yes, there are some — including Craig — who wish Trump had a more diplomatic style, but there’s no question about his commitment to NRA issues.

“He was the first presidential candidate that we fully endorsed in 2016,” Craig said. “He pledged that he would build a pro-Second Amendment court, and he delivered.”

Meanwhile, NRA and Democrat leaders are no closer to resolving the gun debate or coming up with “common sense” legislation to curb the wave of gun violence. There have been more than 160 mass shootings in the U.S. this year — and it’s only April. With frustrations and anger at a fever pitch, Craig says he understands the calls for Congress to do something — anything — to stop the bloodshed.

“And politicians, being politicians, want to show they are doing something even if it doesn’t have any consequence,” Craig says. “We have common-sense gun laws … all the laws we have are based on that. There isn’t anyone in the NRA, or any law-abiding citizen, who wants a person to use a gun with the intent to cause harm. But the problem is the lack of enforcement of the laws that are on the books. For instance, do all states immediately feed their information to the FBA database for automatic background checks? No. And there are frustrations of a wide-open southern border and immigration policy, where some criminals are coming into the country.”

Beyond that, he says, “We have a cultural civil war that is going on in our country right now, and it has built a lot of anger and frustration as the left moves further to the left and the right moves further to the right. What people expect from government is to stay out of our private lives, enforce laws and keep us safe. When people don’t think that law enforcement will keep them safe, they take steps on their own to protect themselves and their families.”

So, guns have become the ultimate security blanket. But do people really need weapons, such as an AR-15? Well … try to take them away, Craig says.

“How are you going to collect them? How are you going to take them off the street? In Idaho, are you going to assign the National Guard to go door to door and ask for them? The answer is that the guard won’t allow it and the governor won’t order them to do it. Then we get down to state’s rights … some states will and some won’t. So now it comes to the individual … and some people will start shooting if federal agents come to the door.”

As for the prospect of banning the sale of assault weapons, Craig says, one problem is defining what an assault weapon is. “Any weapon used to kill another human can be viewed as an assault weapon.”

For law-abiding citizens, an AR-15 is a nice addition to a gun collection. But it’s a popular weapon for crazed shooters seeking 15 minutes of fame on the news networks and wanting to go out in a blaze of glory. Gun violence may be part of a cultural war, as Craig suggests, or maybe it’s the end result of what happens during the transition from pandemic lockdown to “normal” living.

Either way, there are no easy answers, culturally or politically. Of course, there’s something already on the books that should cover everything related to gun violence.

Intentionally killing another person, by whatever means, is against the law — punishable by death or life in prison.

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Chuck Malloy, a longtime Idaho journalist and Silver Valley native, is a columnist with Idaho Politics Weekly. He may be reached at