NRA set to go on offense

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The National Rifle Association (NRA) is about to go on offense after eight years of mostly playing defense against the Obama administration.

The gun rights group hopes to begin at the Supreme Court, where President Trump is expected on Tuesday to announce his pick to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia. 

{mosads}The NRA is lobbying for a jurist who is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, and the group is prepared to be an important player in winning confirmation for Trump’s choice.

Beyond the Supreme Court, the NRA sees an opportunity with Republicans in control of the White House and Congress to pass legislation that would expand concealed-carry laws across state lines. It also hopes to win approval of a bill that would make it easier for hunters to use sound suppressors, otherwise known as silencers.

“For the first time in almost a decade, the NRA is shifting from a defensive stance to a pro-active stance,” NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker said. “We’re going from defense to offense.

“Now, we have a pro-Second Amendment Congress, and a pro-Second Amendment president, who will sign pro-Second Amendment legislation. That’s a huge shift.” 

The NRA fought hard for Trump’s election, endorsing him in May and pumping more than $30 million into his campaign.

The gun lobby’s connection to Trump runs deep. It stuck with him in the darkest hours of the campaign, when a leaked “Access Hollywood” tape revealed Trump talking about groping women without consent.

“One of the things that makes NRA such a political powerhouse is that, by and large, it stays focused on the issue it cares about: guns,” said Adam Winkler, a constitutional law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. “Whatever Trump might say about women and sexual harassment, that’s just not as interesting to the NRA. They are focused on what Trump will do for guns.”

Trump’s win was a huge victory for the NRA.

If Democrat Hillary Clinton had won, a liberal justice almost certainly would have been added to the Supreme Court.

Instead, Trump will fill Scalia’s slot, and he has promised to nominate a jurist who backs the Second Amendment.

“That’s 30 years of votes against gun control,” Winkler said.

Even gun critics see it.

“The gun lobby was one of the first to support Donald Trump, and now that he won and their friends control Congress, they are going to expect a return on that investment,” former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.), who survived a mass shooting and now represents Americans for Responsible Solutions, told supporters Monday.

In Congress, the NRA wants to win approval of the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, which would allow gun owners with concealed-carry permits to travel with their firearms to other states. This would allow a Texas gun owner to bring their firearm on a vacation to Connecticut, which has tougher gun laws, as long as the gun owner follows Connecticut’s rules for concealed-carry permit holders.

It would also allow a gun owner in New York to receive a concealed-carry permit in another state. The law would then make the second state’s concealed-carry permit legal in New York.

Proponents say the law will prevent law-abiding gun owners from being arrested when they travel across the country with their guns.

“The type of criminal who will break gun laws, they’ll conceal a gun anyway,” Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.), the bill’s sponsor, told The Hill. “We’re talking about Americans who can legally possess a gun and want to go through the steps to do it the right way. We want to protect them from being criminalized.”

The Hearing Protection Act is another NRA-backed measure that is sparking controversy.

The legislation, introduced by Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), would make it easier for gun owners to purchase silencers to reduce the noise when they shoot.

“The hunter needs to be able to hear a deer walking in the woods, or a turkey gobbling,” Duncan said. “You can’t always wear headphones or earplugs when you’re hunting.

“So if there is a way we can suppress the sound of the firearm, we’ll help a lot of hunters.”

Critics say this would make it easier for criminals to get silencers.

The NRA is also trying to kill a Social Security Administration regulation issued last month that targets disability recipients who cannot effectively manage their benefits due to certain mental disorders, such as schizophrenia. The agency considers these people mentally unfit to own a gun, and under the new rule they will be reported to the FBI’s National Instate Criminal Background Check System.

The Department of Veterans Affairs issued a similar gun policy that the NRA is targeting.

The NRA is also working to roll back the dozens of executive orders and regulations the Obama administration issued on guns.

“Elections have consequences, and in this recent election the majority of Americans voted in support of the Second Amendment,” Baker said.

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