For years, advocates of Second Amendment rights and opponents of gun control have found a home among the small-government, strict-constructionist members of the GOP. This has been particularly true in the South, where Republican politicians go out of their way to assure the gun lobby that they will follow the NRA as far as the NRA wants them to go.
It is not often that Republicans run afoul of business interests. For years, GOP politicians have pushed business-friendly legislation — and as long as Republicans are in charge, business gets what it wants.
But what if these two constituencies differed on an issue important to both sides?
What, for example, would a GOP-led legislature do if businesses wanted to be able to ban guns on their property, including gun racks in parking lots)? (A variant of the old “check your guns at the door” policy.) And what if the NRA felt such a ban was an infringement on the personal liberty of the gun owner and lobbied for a law that would prevent businesses from doing this?
Such was the dilemma faced recently by Republicans in the Tennessee Legislature, a dilemma they resolved by refusing to support the NRA-favored anti-banning bill. In other words, enough Tennessee Republicans felt it was entirely appropriate for businesses to adopt a “no guns allowed” policy and keep their property “gun free.”
The NRA was not happy.
So it followed that Tennessee Republicans, not Tennessee Democrats, are feeling the wrath of the gun lobby. In at least one case, the NRA has targeted a wayward member for defeat in November.
Similar splits have been seen in Georgia, Alabama, Idaho and North Carolina during recent legislative sessions, and divisions in these core constituencies are troubling to GOP political strategists.
This is another indication that the upcoming campaigns and elections will be bitterly contested, and the outcomes will be hard to predict.