NRA Has Been Holding a Grudge Against Dick Lugar for 10 Years

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If the National Rifle Association is so mad at Indiana Sen. Dick Lugar that it's launching an unusual primary campaign against him, why did it wait until now? The NRA a rarely gets involved in primary elections, but this time, "this decision was easy," Chris Cox, head of the NRA's Political Victory Fund, told The Hill's Cameron Joseph. The group simply could not abide Lugar's "seeming contempt for gun owners in Indiana… It's rare and not often where we are forced to be in a position of opposing an incumbent Republican." The weird thing is, if you go to the NRA's Political Victory Fund's site, most of Lugar's greatest anti-gun sins are more than a  decade old. Why did the NRA wait so long?

For the first time in 35 years, Lugar (pictured above left, with legendary grudge-holder George Costanza) is facing a primary challenger, Richard Mourdock, the conservative Indiana state treasurer, and a Howey/ DePauw poll released last week showed the incumbant ahead by just 7 percentage points. The NRA's support of Mourdock will be substantial: a "six-figure" purchase of air time to run ads calling Lugar "Obama's favorite Republican," Politico's James Hohmann reports, plus mailing more than a million fliers to voters before the May 8 primary. The NRA's "Defeat Lugar" page lists its top complaint as Lugar's vote to confirm Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. This appears to be because those votes are his most recent offenses -- August 2009 and August 2010. Both Kagan and Sotomayor were expected to be confirmed, and Lugar was nowhere close to the deciding vote. But it's what the NRA has to work with, because Lugar's other anti-gun crimes are very old news. Among them:

  • Voting for a semi-automatic weapon ban in 1993 and to reinstate the ban in 2004.
  • Voting for the Brady bill in 1993.
  • Voting for campaign finance reform in 2001.
  • Voting for more regulation of gun shows in 2004.
  • Voting "to ban the importation of standard capacity magazines" in 1998.
  • Voting "to commend the "Million Mom March", which has called for gun registration, gun show restrictions, and the semi-auto ban" in 2000.

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A symbolic pro-Mom vote 12 years ago hardly seems radical. Why didn't the NRA start fighting Lugar right after these votes, in his reelection campaigns in 1996 or 2000 or 2006? Perhaps it's because Lugar ran unopposed and was so popular that in 2006 -- a historic year for Democrats, in which they recaptured Congress and won Senate races in Missouri, Virginia, Ohio, and Montana -- that he faced no Democrat in the general election. Even so, surely the NRA had the resources to make its feelings heard way back when. Perhaps the lobby group wants to send a message to Congress -- revenge is a dish best served cold.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.