LAQUEY, Mo. (Oct. 30, 2010) — With the major exception of the Missouri Farm Bureau, many organizations which typically endorse conservative Republican candidates for office have endorsed Congressman Ike Skelton for years despite him being a Democrat. That includes right to life and veterans organizations, as well as the National Rifle Association; the Farm Bureau had endorsed Skelton for 14 years until this election.
However, the NRA endorsement of Skelton over his Republican challenger, Vicky Hartzler, has become a point of controversy this year.
Skelton has severely attacked Hartzler for opposing a 1998 proposal to place concealed carry permits on the ballot in Missouri, which was a compromise between the sponsor of a concealed carry bill and then-Gov. Mel Carnahan, who said he wouldn’t veto the bill if the sponsor agreed to reframe it as a public vote. That ballot proposal was defeated by voters in April 1999 by a 51.7 percent to 48.3 percent margin, though six years later in 2003, the Missouri Legislature approved concealed carry legislation without a public vote, doing so by overriding the veto of then-Gov. Bob Holden.
Hartzler was one of only 33 members of the 163-member Missouri House of Representatives to vote against sending the issue to a public referendum, but that was a mixed party-line vote with Republicans and Democrats on both sides of the issue. Two area legislators at the time who are still politically active, then-Rep. Bill Ransdall and then-Rep. Chuck Purgason, both voted in favor of the bill, details on which can be found here with the action on the bill listed here and the House Journal for the day of passage, including voting lists, located here.
Hartzler said during her Saturday speech at the Laquey VFW that she has a strong commitment to the right to carry guns.
“As a woman, I think I should have the right to defend myself if I want to. The bad guy is going to have a gun, so don’t tell me I can’t protect myself if I want to have a gun in my car or in my purse,” Hartzler said.
Hartzler said she voted against the proposal to put concealed carry to a public vote because that’s what the NRA wanted, along with Gun Owners of America, the Western Missouri Shooters Alliance, and many gun owners in her own district.
“It seems like the constitution says we have the right to keep and bear arms,” Hartzler said. “We shouldn’t put basic rights and freedoms out to a vote, no more than I would support putting out to a vote should we have freedom of religion yes or no, freedom of speech, yes or no. Those freedoms are already ours.”
Hartzler has a letter from the NRA’s national office backing up her position that the NRA opposed putting right to carry on the ballot in 1998.
“In doing so, you and other state legislators sought to force the Missouri General Assembly to pass legislation on this important issue rather than provide for the very risky and extremely costly method of policy reform of a ballot initiative,” according to a letter from the director of federal affairs of the NRA Political Victory Fund, Charles H. Cunningham.
“As it turned out, this ballot initiative — Proposition B — cost millions of dollars and was defeated at the polls in April of 1999. While it took six more years to get Right to Carry enacted into law in Missouri, the traditional means of policy change through involvement in gubernatorial and legislative elections followed by passage of legislation is what made possible eventual enactment of the current Missouri Right-to-Carry statute,” according to the NRA letter. “So voting against putting this issue on the ballot as an initiative is not the same as opposing concealed carry reform. Obviously, if there were any concern that you were not pro-gun, you would not be rated an “A” by the NRA-PVF in the congressional election this year.”
Hartzler reminded voters that a key opponent of the April 1999 vote was the governor’s daughter, Robin Carnahan, who is now Missouri’s secretary of state and is running against U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Kit Bond.
“They ran these awful ads in Kansas City and St. Louis scaring people,” Hartzler said.
Records from that failed 1999 ballot campaign confirm the NRA’s current version of its stance on the 1998 vote that led to the 1999 public vote. The NRA opposed a 1996 effort by then-Sen. Danny Staples to put the question on the ballot, and also opposed the question in 1998. Through a local support organization known as Missourians against Crime, the NRA and local backers invested about $2.35 million in the race and won nearly every county in the state except for 11 counties, mostly in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas, though opponents of concealed carry won with an expenditure of $766,000 by the Safe Schools and Workplaces Committee.
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