Political Report: A New Majority in Congress

Thursday, February 01, 2007

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POLITICAL REPORT

CHRIS COX, NRA-ILA Executive Director

We built an extensive record of accomplishments between 2000 and 2006, and now the enemies of freedom are mustering to capture back all of this ground--and then some.

It didn't take long to get a preview of what's in store for gun owners and hunters from the new Congress. In fact, our old adversaries demonstrated their new vigor before the old Congress even finished its business for 2006.

The so-called "lame duck" congressional session was scheduled to begin right after the elections, and was slated as a clean-up session to tie up loose ends and finish the 2006 spending bills. But with the change in control of both the House and Senate that came on Election Day, the lame-duck session turned instead into a full-scale retreat for the Republicans, and a full-blown rout for the Democrats.

Republicans abandoned their plans to finish the year's spending bills, figuring they might as well leave the work for the Democrats to tackle. The Democrats, for the most part, elected their leadership, jockeyed for committee and chairmanship assignments and began setting their agenda for next year.

But some members of the new vanguard couldn't wait for 2007 to begin exercising their newfound power. Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, both Democrats from California, launched an immediate attack to undo one of our most recent and important victories.

But some members of the new vanguard couldn't wait for 2007 to begin exercising their newfound power. Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, both Democrats from California, launched an immediate attack to undo one of our most recent and important victories.

It was last October when Congress agreed to spare the mule deer and elk herds that are currently residing on Santa Rosa Island, California. These herds would otherwise have been subject to eradication by government-paid snipers under a court decree.

In the last hours before the Congress recessed for the elections, NRA joined with other conservation groups to plead for an amendment to protect the herds--free of disease, and insulated from the mainland by 40 miles of Pacific Ocean--from court-ordered extermination. Leaders in Congress agreed, and included the language. In early November, the president signed the amendment to protect the unique and invaluable herds.

Boxer and Feinstein came back to Washington, full of vinegar from their party's election victories and vowing to undo the "terrible mistake" that saved the herds from eradication. They wrote up an amendment to repeal the language that protected the animals, which would once again place the deer and elk squarely in the crosshairs of government snipers. They muscled it through the Senate and into a spending bill that was slated for action in the lame-duck session.

Feinstein crowed that her amendment ensured that the island's "wildlife will be enjoyed by all for years to come." The twisted view that wildlife could be "enjoyed" by ordering its massive slaughter reflects the perverse dogma of the groups who demanded the repeal effort--the hardest-core of "green" environmental groups, whose view of nature demands the eradication of all of mankind's presence and conservation influence. To these groups, true "wilderness" and "wildlife" can only be realized by removing any presence or influence of mankind--by lethal force if necessary.

The Feinstein/Boxer amendment was nothing more than political payback for the extensive election efforts of the extremist groups. They helped return Boxer and Feinstein to positions of authority in the new Congress, and the amendment was a down payment on political debt.

There will be much more to come from this axis in the next two years--Boxer will become chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, while Feinstein will push her agenda through the Senate's Judiciary Committee.

Fortunately, time ran out on the senators from California. The Congress became mired in internal debate over spending measures, and the appropriations bill with the repeal language did not emerge from the morass before the Congress adjourned for the year. But now they are back, with all of the influence and power of committee chairs, and the deer and elk on Santa Rosa Island remain in their sights.

The issue is a microcosm of the challenges we now face. We built an extensive record of accomplishments between 2000 and 2006, and now the enemies of freedom are mustering to capture back all of this ground--and then some. Gun-ban groups are eagerly circulating their "to-do" lists for the new Congress, and they include banning gun shows, renewing and expanding the Clinton gun ban, repealing the law that has blocked baseless lawsuits against the gun industry, banning "needlessly large and powerful firearms" and rationing our rights through firearm purchase limits.

These proposals are justified by the blanket statement that "we have too many guns in this country"--just as Boxer and Feinstein clearly believe we have too many deer and elk. But what they're really saying is that Americans have too much freedom. They have decided that the 2006 elections have given them a mandate to decide where freedom ends and bans begin--gun bans, hunting bans, even bans on wildlife.

They wasted no time in their first effort to move the lines. We held them back this time, but the real challenge to hold our own now begins in earnest, as the new Congress is convened.

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