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April 26th, 2013

Interview with NRA President David Keene

Fresh off a victory over President Obama and Washington, D.C. bureaucrats in their latest effort to restrict Second Amendment rights, National Rifle Association President David Keene visited Iowa on Thursday. The event at the State Capitol was arranged by the Polk County Republican Party. Around two dozen state legislators were among the crowd  of 125 supporters packed into a conference room to greet and listen to Keene.

Introduced by state Rep. Clel Baudler (R-Greenfield), Keene spoke at length about the battle with the U.S. Senate and big moneyed liberals like New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who spent $12 million in the week prior to the senate vote in an effort to pass gun restrictions. Keene also answered a few questions from the supportive audience.

Prior to becoming the NRA’s president in 2011, he served as the chairman of the American Conservative Union from 1984-2011. David Keene has long been considered one of the nation’s most astute political observers. He has played major roles in Republican presidential campaigns and has been lauded for his efforts from both sides of the aisle.

Keene granted the chance for a one-on-one interview. We discussed the defeat of the gun bill in the U.S. Senate, the truth about what was in the bill, the NRA’s ongoing efforts to protect the Second Amendment and Keene offered his views on Iowa’s 2014 U.S. Senate race.

Below is the transcript of the interview:

TIR: So, why did you decide to come to Iowa today?

Keene: Well, now that the senate has finished voting on this current set of gun restrictions, I’ve got a little time I’m doing two things. One, I’m going to those state that have been particularly hostile to firearms ownership – New York, Maryland, Colorado – to sort of rally our people because we’re going to be in court to try to defeat these things. But secondly and just as importantly, maybe more importantly, is I’m going to places where we’ve got a lot of friends, because our friends stood up for us. They stood up not just for us, but the citizens of their states and have protected their rights under the Constitution. And that’s why I’m here today. Just to say thank you.

TIR: How big of a victory was that senate vote last week for the NRA?

Keene: Well it was a huge victory for gun owners and for the Second Amendment, and only incidentally for the NRA. It was a bigger victory for the NRA than you might have expected at the beginning because in order to win this vote, the president and his allies believed they had to demonize and take down the National Rifle Association. This vote showed that they weren’t able to do that. So in that sense, it was symbolically important from our standpoint, as well as important for gun owners around the country.

If you have predicted in January that the vote would come out the way it did, nobody would have thought you were going to be right. It was expected that a lot of the Feinstein bill and so-called assault weapons and some version of the Schumer background check bill and a lot of other things were in fact going to go through the Senate and that the fight was then going to be in the House to see whether they could actually get a vote on it. So, the fact that it was stopped in the senate by a combination of Republicans and Democrats really was a great victory for America’s gun owners.

TIR: Every day people who don’t really get into the weeds of the legislation and (don’t) look at the whole story and think, “Oh, background checks make sense.”

Keene: That’s why they picked that as sort of the sweet spot, because it sounds really like a good idea. I’ve always said, when you have a piece of legislation that sounds like it’s a solution to all the world’s problems, you better start looking at the details. The Schumber bill, which is the bill that’s in the package and which they were trying to come up with some kind of compromise on and backed away from, but the Schumber bill not only requires background checks across the board.

It’s not just for sales, it’s for transfer, and I used a couple of examples: If you went hunting on someone’s farm, it was a large farm and it was divided by a county road as many of them area and you lent me a gun to hunt with you on your farm and we crossed that road, we’d both be felons, because that transfer would be illegal as we crossed the road.

My daughter is in the  Army Reserves. She served two tours in Iraq, one in Afghanistan. She owns one firearm. She owns an AR-15 because she likes it. She goes to the range with it. If she were, God forbid, called up tomorrow and sent to Syria or wherever they’re thinking of sending people, and she left that firearm here with her roommate, she’s now in college, they would both be felons because that would be illegal.

So, it’s often true in legislation that the devil’s in the details. There were a lot of devils in the Schumer bill. For example, one of the things that it allowed was that you could not rent a firearm at a private range. A lot of people if they’re going to buy a sidearm in particular, they’ll go to the range and they’ll rent three or four of them and try them out and decide which one they want to buy.  That would be illegal under the Schumer bill.

And there were a whole lot of those kinds of things in it and the result was that the senate leadership knew that was not going to pass even though that’s what Senator Schumer wanted. He wanted that and he wanted a road to a national registry, which has always been the goal. Initially he tried to make a deal with Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and some others. All of them walked out because he would not give up the road to the registry. So what he did finally, in the so-called Toomey/Manchin compromise, was he put language in it saying you can’t have a national registry and then required that all the data be held only to the national government centrally if there was an emergency. So the registry was in fact part of it, but they had to put lipstick on that pig to make is sellable and it still wouldn’t sale.

TIR: Switching topics a little bit. As you know, we’ve got an open senate seat coming up in 2014. Bruce Braley is obviously going to be the Democrat nominee. You used to lead the American Conservative Union until recently. Their most recent scores gave Braley a zero rating.

Keene: Well then he’d be just right in line with Tom Harkin, wouldn’t he. (laughs)

TIR: Well, Harkin got a 4 though. And Pelosi got a 4. Braley scored lower than them. What does that say about Bruce Braley?

Keene: It says that he’s too liberal to represent Iowa, that’s what it tells you. In fact, one could argue that Tom was too liberal to represent Iowa, but he was a nice fella, he got along with people and got reelected. But now Iowa has a chance who’s consistent and can vote consistent on their values, and that’s not the guy.

Below is NRA President David Keene’s speech at the State Capitol:

Photo by April Linder

About the Author

Kevin Hall
Kevin Hall brings almost two decades of journalistic experience to TheIowaRepublican. Starting in college as a radio broadcaster, Hall eventually became a television anchor/reporter for stations in North Carolina, Missouri, and Iowa. During the 2007 caucus cycle, Hall changed careers and joined the political realm. He was the northwest Iowa field director for Fred Thompson's presidential campaign. Hall helped Terry Branstad return to the governor's office by organizing southwest Iowa for Branstad's 2010 campaign. Hall serves as a reporter/columnist for

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