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Earlier this year I wrote about and participated in a brouhaha regarding concealed carry in Iowa. The National Rifle Association had put forward a poor excuse for a carry reform bill that made the already complex maze that is Iowa’s gun law even more complex and dangerous to Second Amendment rights. Several of us were trying hard to get the bill improved before it ended up doing more damage than good.

The hero of that fight was a young state representative named Kent Sorenson, who is now being attacked for being too supportive of gun rights by his opponent in a tough State Senate race. Not only is Sorenson being attacked as a pro-rights “extremist” by his opponent, Staci Appel, she is accusing him of defending “wife beaters” because he opposed a state expansion of the notorious Lautenberg domestic-violence law.

What’s even worse is that Appel was literally moments away from receiving the official NRA endorsement in the race when her first attack ads hit criticizing Sorenson for supporting pro-rights positions, which are also all supported by the NRA. To their credit, NRA immediately withdrew their endorsement, but the association literally had to stop the presses to keep an endorsement of Appel from appearing in the pages of NRA publications.

Sorenson was the sponsor of an Iowa Constitutional Carry bill, which I strongly supported, and was instrumental in pushing a much weaker NRA-sponsored bill into revisions, which eventually made the bill an acceptable though disappointing vehicle for reforming concealed carry in the state. Not only did Kent Sorenson carry a heavy load in that fight, he has been an active sponsor or cosponsor of virtually every pro-rights measure introduced in the Iowa legislature since he was first elected a few years ago. Sorenson has not just been a supporter of gun owners, he has been an outspoken advocate on our behalf. That’s why I was thrilled to see him step up to challenge the anti-rights, liberal Democrat Appel for a seat in the State Senate this year.

In the Senate, Sorenson would have even more influence and be a more effective advocate for the Second Amendment cause. But Appel’s attacks seem to be taking a toll.

She has zeroed in on Sorenson’s opposition to a state ban on firearms possession by persons convicted of any misdemeanor crime of domestic violence. The bill also called for local authorities to immediately confiscate all firearms from anyone who is the subject of a restraining order or order of protection – including women who are routinely placed under such orders in retaliation when they get restraining orders against estranged husbands or boyfriends.

Appel’s brutally tasteless ads are appearing on television and in direct mail and picture battered women with statements that “Kent Sorenson’s positions on guns are so scary, even the NRA has opposed them” and that “Sorenson actually supported letting people with a history of domestic abuse own a gun.”

Of course Appel’s ads are suggesting that Sorenson’s position on the domestic-violence bill was what was too extreme for NRA. In fact NRA opposed the domestic-violence bill and negotiated changes to keep the Iowa bill from doing much more than mirroring federal law. What Appel’s ads are actually alluding to is the rift created when Sorenson pushed forward with his Constitutional Carry bill instead of withdrawing it in favor of the much weaker NRA compromise proposal. In truth, Sorenson’s bill was officially supported by NRA, and Sorenson voted for the NRA bill when it came to a vote. NRA didn’t oppose the Sorenson bill, they just didn’t really work for its passage because they felt that it couldn’t garner the necessary votes and they preferred an incremental approach.

At this point the race between Sorenson and Appel is statistically a dead heat, and that’s not good news for Sorenson or gun owners. If Appel’s domestic-violence attack strategy proves successful, we can expect to see many more of these types of attacks all around the country in future elections. It has the potential to make Republicans run from the gun issue, and it will embolden the anti-rights crowd to push even harder – especially on confusing and misleading legislation like the “No Guns for Wife Beaters” legislation exploited in this case.

The “wife beater” attack is not a new strategy, but, if it works against Sorenson, it would represent a ray of hope for a whole lot of antigun politicians hopelessly bobbing about on rough political seas these days. In the wrong hands a little hope can be a very dangerous and destructive thing.

Here’s to hoping that this particular hope proves empty in short order. If you’re in Iowa or know anyone there, Kent Sorenson needs your help.

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