Opinion and Forefront

KRULL: Mourdock rolls over for big NRA endorsement

March 17, 2012

John KrullThe National Rifle Association’s endorsement of Richard Mourdock in his primary race against U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar makes at least two things clear.

The first is that, if Mourdock gets elected, the NRA will own another member of the U.S. Senate.

During the conference call announcing the endorsement, Mourdock, who is Indiana state treasurer, went to some lengths to explain how much he wanted the NRA endorsement. He said he filled out a lot of forms for the NRA and answered a lot of questions from the NRA.

He interviewed for the endorsement and made commitments in order to get the nod.

Just how sweeping those commitments were became clear when Chris Cox, chairman of the NRA’s Political Victory Fund, took over the conversation.

Cox said Mourdock had agreed to vote the NRA position on all measures relating to guns and to vote the way the NRA wants him to on all U.S. Supreme Court nominations.

So much for a U.S. senator’s deliberative function.

If Mourdock is elected to the Senate, both the NRA and Hoosier voters can count on him to roll over, fetch or beg whenever the gun lobby snaps its fingers. Richard Mourdock will be the NRA’s poodle.

The second thing that’s clear is that Mourdock and the NRA are more than willing not just to burn bridges, but to scorch the earth that surrounds the bridges.

Cox said this was the only time he could recall that the NRA had endorsed a challenger to a Republican Senate incumbent. He said Lugar had received an F grade from the gun group, while Mourdock had received an A. Cox cited Lugar’s refusal to sign a couple of legal briefs and his votes in support of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominees.

Cox implied that Lugar had lied to voters and said the senator thought gun owners were “stupid.” He said Lugar was out of touch with “Indiana values” and “Indiana voters.”

Those are words from which the gun lobby will have a hard time walking back.

If Lugar wins re-election, Cox and the NRA can count on having the same access to the senator’s office that Osama Bin Laden does.

Cox and Mourdock seemed oblivious to the irony of a national lobbying group’s attacking someone for being out of touch with local values.

That’s particularly true on the issue of whether Hoosier gun rights are imperiled.

Indiana’s constitution doesn’t have any of the qualifying language—“militia” and “well-regulated”—that have prompted fierce debates through the years about what the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution really means. In Indiana, the constitution comes about as close to stating that Hoosiers have an absolute right to bear arms as any document can.

And, when it comes to a question of individual liberty, the more expansive protection prevails.

In the case of gun rights for Hoosiers, that means Indiana’s constitution trumps the U.S. Constitution. Gun ownership in the Hoosier state isn’t likely to be under attack unless Indiana suddenly decides to draft a new constitution.

The chance of that happening is somewhere between nil and non-existent.

But the NRA really isn’t worried about Hoosier gun owners and Hoosier voters.

What the gun lobby wants—and, apparently, what the gun lobby will get with Mourdock—is an unquestioning voice in the U.S. Senate for all its positions in both the national and international arenas.

To get that voice, Cox made it clear the NRA would spend a lot of money on ads for Mourdock.

Mourdock said he negotiated hard for the NRA’s endorsement.

We now know the terms of the deal.•

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Krull directs Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, hosts the weekly news program “No Limits” on WFYI-FM 90.1, and is executive director of The Statehouse File. Send comments on this column to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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