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NRA questionnaires are hitting candidate mailboxes here in Kentucky and presumably in other states.

candidates dissing nra

Beyond liberal-leaning Louisville and Lexington, Republicans and many Democrats run hard on the so-called social issues, notably guns. They covet an “A” grade from the NRA, which usually leads to loads of gun lobby lucre.

In the aftermath of the Florida school massacre, at least a half dozen Democratic candidates for the state legislature in rural western Kentucky—my neck of the woods—are telling the NRA to take a hike.

Evidently unafraid of the dreaded NRA "F," two of the candidates tossed the survey in the trash, three replied with rebukes, and the other one can't decide whether to deep six the survey or to pen a reproof.

Evidently unafraid of the dreaded NRA "F," two of them tossed the survey in the trash, three replied with rebukes, and the other one can't decide whether to deep six the survey or to pen a reproof.

Their scorn suggests that the slaughter is steeling candidate spines against the NRA, which never met a gun it didn't like.

The NRA especially dotes on the AR-15, the semi-automatic weapon the teenage gunman used to murder 3 adults and 14 students last month at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.

The NRA Blog calls the firearm "America’s Most Popular Rifle." The blog features color photos of the guns with captions like "AR-15s can be skinned or wrapped in all different types of colors and patterns," "So, SO, SOOOO many accessories, especially from Magpul," "Make it even cooler and #FightTheNoise - add a suppressor from SilencerCo" and "May the Pew Pew be with you..." I guess "Pew Pew" is supposed to be the sound AR-15s make when they're fired.

Anyway, the cover letter that came with the survey warned that if candidates didn’t mail the questions back, they “may be assigned a ‘?’ rating, which can be interpreted by our membership as indifference, if not outright hostility, toward Second Amendment-related issues.”

Apparently, the NRA sends the same questionnaire each election cycle. The one Washington State Sen. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, got in 2016 also had the threat about not replying.

He offered "a choice response," according to Joseph O’Sullivan of the Seattle Times’s bureau in Olympia, the state capital.

The survey reminded the lawmaker "of 2014 remarks reportedly made by NRA lobbyist Brian Judy, comparing gun-purchase background checks to the beginning of Nazi measures against Jews before World War II,” O’Sullivan wrote.

Carlyle emailed the questionnaire to Judy and others, including some Fourth Estate folks. The lawmaker wrote, “As a 2016 candidate and incumbent Washington State Senator, I would be more than willing to respond to your official request by the NRA once your organization has the professional courtesy to respond to the inquiry made in 2014 by the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle and me about your statements linking 21st Century U.S. gun safety procedures with 1930s Nazi policies.

"Since, as far as I am aware, no one received the personal or professional courtesy of a response about your statements, one may be led to assume ‘indifference, if not outright hostility, toward’ the sensibilities of the broader Jewish community as well as a belief and value system that vitriolic language is belittling to our nation’s civic dialogue.

“Thus, please consider this a formal request that you make an official notation in your campaign ratings and material to members that I directly responded to your request with a full and complete willingness to answer your policy questions once you and the NRA provide a response to previous inquiries about statements that some may consider vicious and insensitive.”

Carlyle also provided Judy a link for donations to the Alliance for Gun Responsibility — an organization supported by ex-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s gun-violence prevention program — that in 2014 achieved a background-check expansion in Washington, O’Sullivan wrote.

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Judy didn’t reply to a Times email soliciting comment, the paper’s scribe added.

Carlyle wrapped up his message by welcoming Judy to “a thoughtful, safe, healthy civic dialogue at any time you may wish to engage.”

Half of the six disgusted western Kentucky Democrats emailed me their reactions to the survey:

• “They [NRA] have some cojones and absolutely ZERO tact! Notice the thinly veiled threat.”

• "I looked at it as an opportunity to give them my opinion of their biased arm-twisting."

• "I am not answering. I have no problem with guns; my husband and son are both hunters. I am a supporter of our 2nd amendment rights. However, I have never been a member of the NRA, and I refuse to pander to them. The tone of their letter preceding the survey was hostile and I will not be intimidated by them into filling it out. I do not need to be a fan of the NRA in order to support our constitutional rights."

Their responses to the NRA's boldfaced threat of retribution reminded me of a Kentucky newspaper editor’s retort to a cheeky congressman during the Civil War.

George Dennison Prentice occupied the editor’s chair at The Louisville Journal, Kentucky's leading pro-Union paper. He often scorched Confederate sympathizers as traitors.

A frequent object of Prentice's disaffection was Congressman Henry Cornelius Burnett. The House expelled him for treason after he and some other die-hard rebels organized Kentucky’s fraudulent Confederate government in 1861. Burnett ended up a Confederate senator, though my home state never exited the Union.

While he was still in Congress and on Uncle Sam’s payroll, Burnett fulsomely praised the Confederacy and its president, Jefferson Davis, in a speech back home.

Burnett's brazenness was too much for Prentice.

The congressman, the editor suggested, might "console himself with the reflection that no one can retort by calling him a dog, for he is 'A creature / Whom 'twere base flattery to call a dog.''

He could "pride himself in the consciousness that although he may not wear a dog's collar he has enough brass in his impudent forehead to furnish a brace of collars for all the dogs in creation."

Time was, politicians from Paducah to Pikeville routinely knuckled under to the NRA, even those who thought the NRA was nuts but were scared to cross the gun group.

The six candidates who called the NRA's hand are in tough races; three face right-wing Trump Republicans who are certain to get the NRA nod again. But the half dozen Dems are showing profiles in courage where, heretofore, profiles in cowardice on guns was the rule hereabouts.

Berry Craig

The brassy-noggin NRA's comeuppance is long overdue.

Berry Craig