It might seem strange for an Idaho congressman to get involved with gun laws in New York. But it’s not surprising when that congressman is Russ Fulcher, who will dive into almost anything when he thinks that Second Amendment rights are at stake.
Fulcher has joined a host of House Republicans who, along with the New York Rifle and Pistol Association, are challenging the state’s restrictive licensing regulations.
“It is deeply upsetting to hear about how New York, and not just New York but many other states as well, have begun to chip away at one of our most fundamental rights – the right to defend ourselves and our families,” Fulcher says.
The domino theory comes into play here as far as gun advocates are concerned. Any number of states could follow what New York does with gun laws.
But the situation with the licensing laws (pardon the pun) is “small potatoes” compared to what’s happening with the National Rifle Association in New York.
Attorney General Letitia James was elected in 2018 on the promise to bring down the NRA and she’s made life uncomfortable for the powerful lobbying organization. She has challenged (among other things) the NRA’s non-profit status and the NRA has responded with a slew of measures to ensure its house is in order. But court activity is a long way from being over.
According to Andrew Arulanandam, a longtime spokesman for the lobbying organization, there are other forces working against the NRA – including President Biden and the Democrats who control both houses of Congress.
“We’re not under siege because we did anything wrong … we have done everything right,” said Arulanandam. “Over the years, a very powerful political force has tried to bring us down. It includes Michael Bloomberg who embarked on a gun-control crusade. He has spent billions of dollars trying to bring us down and defeat us at the congressional level, the state level and in the courts. And we have prevailed through all of that.”
Arulanandam is no stranger to Idaho politics. He’s a Boise State University graduate and worked on the staffs and campaigns for former Sen. (and Gov.) Dirk Kempthorne. He has been with the NRA for more than 20 years.
The NRA bills itself as a non-partisan organization, but in realistic terms, it’s attractive only to Republicans. The NRA is in the center of controversy, and often viewed as a scapegoat, whenever a mass shooting occurs. What follows those events are the usual calls for more laws, along with the NRA’s well-worn response that law-abiding citizens are not to blame.
Former Idaho Sen. Larry Craig, who has been on the NRA’s board of directors since 1982, has seen dramatic changes at the board level. The “Blue Dog” Democrats from the south, who were supporters of the NRA, have been replaced by Republicans and the Democrats of today are nowhere to be found within in the NRA ranks.
“Over the years, the Democratic Party found guns to be a winning issue for them,” Craig said. Today, if you are endorsing the Democratic platform, then you’ve got to be anti-gun. Has the NRA changed during that time? No. What I like to say is that we are the largest civil rights organization out there – standing up for the rights guaranteed in our constitution.”
The New York politicos have a quite different view. Arulanandam says that former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, for one, has made it clear that those who do business with the NRA, will not do business with the state of New York.
“People started dropping us, even though it was a clear violation of the First Amendment,” Arulanandam said. “That’s what Cuomo did, and he was applauded by the media. So, we are up against the New York political machine. Added to that, there’s a Biden administration that is extremely hostile toward guns. That’s cause for concern for gun owners across the country and in Idaho.”
Arulanandam says the NRA is fighting back, with the help of supporters. “We have strength in numbers – about five-million dues-paying members and more than 100-million gun owners.”
Craig sees New York’s case against the NRA weakening and, eventually, the organization will settle into a friendlier home in Texas. “The attack in New York should be seen for what it is. It’s a political stunt.”
And it’s a “stunt” that could lead James to the governorship if the stars line up right.
Chuck Malloy is a long-time Idaho journalist and columnist. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org