While we like to think the gun issue transcends partisan politics, and there are certainly some pro-gun Democrats and some anti-gun Republicans, the fact is that the Democrat Party has never included recognition of Second Amendment rights or support for specific legislation recognizing some aspect of those rights in their national party platform.
Republicans, on the other hand, have routinely included pro-gun provisions in their party platform. When rights issues come up for a vote, on the floor or in committee, we can generally count on most Democrats to vote in opposition and most Republicans to vote in favor.
Even though there are some Democrats who support individual rights, they generally follow the party line when the rubber meets the road on key partisan matters like judicial and cabinet confirmations and major policy initiatives from the White House – even when it is clear that the vote will be detrimental to gun owners. While it is frustrating and disappointing when a supposedly pro-gun Democrat votes for confirmation of a clearly anti-gun judge like Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court, it is even more frustrating when a Republican chooses to defy their party and vote with Democrats on such matters.
Not only has Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., crossed party lines to vote for confirmation of both Sotomayor and Kagan for the Supreme Court and in support of numerous anti-gun nominees and appointees to the federal bench and cabinet positions, he has also repeatedly voted against gun owners on pure, stand-alone gun legislation. He was one of only two Republicans to vote against the National Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act in 2009, and he has announced his opposition to a similar bill currently awaiting action in the Senate.
Lugar also voted in favor of the Clinton Assault Weapons Ban and then voted to extend the ban for another 10 years when it was scheduled to sunset. He also voted for the Brady Law, with background checks and waiting periods, and voted to make private transfers of firearms illegal.
During his 36 years in the U.S. Senate, Lugar has consistently opposed efforts to roll back restrictions on firearm ownership, sale and possession and has consistently supported increased restrictions on lawful gun ownership. This in spite of the fact that he hails from a conservative state with relatively liberal gun laws. Indiana scored only 4 points in the latest Brady Scorecard, putting it in a tie for 4th place among the lowest scores, showing that their 6-term incumbent senator’s voting record is completely out of step with the people he is supposed to be representing. Lugar’s opposition to expanding recognition of state-issued concealed carry permits is particularly out of line considering the fact that Indiana already recognizes permits from every other state.
Running for his 7th term, the 80-year-old Lugar has the distinction of being the most senior Republican in the U.S. Senate; he is unquestionably the most anti-gun.
Even Scott Brown, the Republican who was elected in 2010 to finish out Ted Kennedy’s term, is more “gun-friendly” than Lugar, though he, like Lugar, indicated that he would vote against a national reciprocity bill this year. Brown is also up for reelection in November and, like Lugar, is considered a “moderate” (read “liberal”) Republican, but Brown represents Massachusetts where he is not facing a Republican primary challenger and will undoubtedly be pitted against an ultra-liberal in the general election.
Lugar represents conservative Indiana, where Republicans control both houses of the legislature and the governor’s mansion and Democrats didn’t even bother fielding a challenger in his last election. But now he is being challenged in the May 8 Republican primary by conservative Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock.
Gun Owners of America came out early in support of Mourdock, and NRA delivered their official endorsement in early March. Mourdock is also popular with tea party groups and social conservatives, but many doubt his ability to overcome the tremendous advantages Lugar enjoys in name recognition and fundraising. Another obstacle facing Mourdock is the idea that if he were to defeat Lugar in the primary, he would not be able to beat Democrat Joe Donnelly in the general election. Donnelly is a three-term congressman representing the South Bend area and is considered a moderate Democrat. Donnelly has no information on his web site about his positions on gun rights or other hot-button issues.
A defeat for Lugar would turn the Indiana Senate race into one of the most prominent and expensive in the nation. National Democrats would see the seat as vulnerable and would pour tons of resources into the fight. National Republicans would see the seat as a “must-hold” and would go to the wall to keep the seat from shifting to the Democrats.
Voters seem to be ready for a change, as Mourdock has been leading in polls and recently won an important straw poll.
Of course no one will know anything for sure until the votes are counted on May 8, but it’s looking like the voters of Indiana might have finally figured out that if you keep voting the way you’ve always voted, you’re going to keep getting what you’ve always gotten.
More information about this and many other important races around the country can be found at GunVoter.org.