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This has been posted by several people already but since I received an email from an NRA member that does not understand why Mark Warner received the same grade as Jim Gilmore in the Virginia U.S. Senate race, I thought I would put my two cents worth in too.

First there is this video:

Yes, fourteen years ago, Mark Warner said a number of groups, including the NRA were threatening to what it means to be an American.

Then, in 1996, Mark Warner, while running for U.S. Senate against then U.S. Senator John Warner (no relation) said he supported the Clinton Gun Ban and in 2001 when running for Governor of Virginia, he could not answer with a simple yes or no whether the NRA was a positive force in Virginia. He stumbled and bumbled before saying he thought the NRA represented its members. He also said he would sign a bill banning firearms in local parks and recreation centers. Warner also said in 1996 that if he had been governor when Virginia’s “shall issue” concealed handgun law passed, he would not have signed it.

After winning the Governor’s race in 2001, Warner faced a strongly Republican and pro-gun General Assembly. During his four years in office, he saw a number of pro-gun bills come across his desk – including 17 in 2004. Among those bills, he signed a bill partially rolling back Virginia’s handgun rationing law – allowing concealed handgun permit holders (CHPs) to purchase more than one handgun in a 30 day period. Warner also signed Virginia’s full preemption law – repealing all local ordinances dealing with owning and purchasing firearms. There were also a number of bills further strengthening Virginia’s CHP statute. In short, Warner signed every bill that hit his desk – the two of real substance mentioned above and many that had little substance but that did advance the ball forwarded a yard or two for gun owners.

Having said this, given a choice between Jim Gilmore and Mark Warner, this gun owner will take Jim Gilmore any day of the week. Jim Gilmore has never said anything against gun owners or the NRA. Jim Gilmore is a life member of the NRA (he did not, like Mitt Romney, join a year before running for the office he sought). Jim Gilmore is also a member of the NRA Board of Directors.

This gun owner believes words mean things. Even though they were 14 years ago, the fact that Mark Warner thought gun owners were a threat to what he thought it meant to be an American says something about Mark Warner’s mindset. When he was Governor, he was not going to see a gun control bill and it would have been political suicide for him to veto bills that passed by veto proof margins. But Warner is one of those who equates gun rights with hunters and “sportsmen” – thus his original opposition to the CHP statute passed in 1995.

This gun owner does not for a minute believe that if Warner is in a U.S. Senate with a filibuster proof margin and Obama in the White House, that he will oppose one or more of Obama’s Supreme Court nominees – nominees that Obama himself has said would be like Justice Stephen Breyer or Justice Ruth Ginsburg – justices that were in the minority in the Heller decision and who believe the meaning of the Constitution changes with the whims of public opinion. I also do not believe that Warner has changed his true opinion of the Clinton Gun Ban.

And the federal courts, not just the Supreme Court, are a huge concern to this gun owner and voter. The next president will have extraordinary impact on the ideological shape of the nation’s federal courts for decades to come. It is likely the next president will appoint Supreme Court judges as six of the nine are turning 70. In addition, hundreds of federal and appellate judges will be appointed.  Appellate appointments shape lasting constitutional interpretations and they cover multiple states. Although these require Congressional approval, that will be a slam-dunk if this election creates a Democratic super-majority. One out of three federal judges now owes a lifetime-tenured job to the current president.

The overwhelming majority of Americans believe that judges should interpret the law as it is written. Seventy-four percent (74%) of men favor that approach along with 65% of women. Sen. McCain supports that view and he has consistently campaigned on a “strict constructionist philosophy” for the courts.

Sen. Obama, on the other hand, believes that judges should be required to possess “empathy” and should “reach decisions on the basis of his deepest values, core concerns, and broader perspectives on how the world works.” During the Roberts nomination debate, Sen. Obama stated, “Legal process alone will not lead you to a rule of decision. In those difficult cases, the critical ingredient is supplied by what is in the judge’s heart.”

My sources at NRA Federal Affairs – the division that rates candidates – says that Warner’s pro-gun record while he was Governor, and the fact he answered the questions on the questionnaire to NRA’s satisfaction, is why he received the same rating as Jim Gilmore. I am told the questionnaire included a question on the Clinton Gun Ban and on judicial appointments. I suspect like in 2001, that is all Warner was hoping for – to keep NRA neutral so he could tell voters in rural areas that since they have nothing to fear from him on the gun issue, they can focus on other issues like the economy.

Gun owners have to judge for themselves if they want Warner to be the 60th vote that will allow every anti-gun court appointment from a President Obama to make it to the bench.

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