NRA president pledges return of values at event

2014-11-10 | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Nov. 10--Local conservatives suffered through another bad election Tuesday after the Republican surge that gave the GOP the U.S. Senate, an expanded majority in the U.S. House and more governors failed to reach traditionally Demo­cratic Hawaii.

On Saturday night, though, conservatives had a chance to celebrate.

Jim Porter, president of the National Rifle Association, told a dinner hosted by the Hawaii Republican Assembly at the Pearl Country Club that the Republican wave was a "watershed event" for the nation.

"I call it the day that we in our country start taking back our freedoms and start taking back our country," said Porter, an attorney from Ala­bama. The Hawaii Republican Assembly is the conservative wing of the local Republican party, an interest group of unknown membership strength.

The NRA spent $30 million on the elections, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, and the candidates the gun-rights group favored had a 68 percent success rate.

With 5 million members and a single-minded focus on the Second Amendment, the NRA is among the most potent advocacy groups.

"I was certain that if we didn't win back the Senate that this country was going to be in terrible shape," Porter said.

The NRA has responded to the clamor for gun control after the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in 2012 with an aggressive defense of the constitutional right to bear arms. An advertising campaign launched this year portrays gun owners as the "good guys" who have the courage to stand up for gun rights, a free press and privacy.

Porter said voters are "starved for values" and was dismissive of Hawaii-born President Barack Obama.

"We don't have anyone with any values at all in the White House, and not one that respects the rule of law," he said. "But they are attacking every facet of the social fabric upon which this country was founded.

"They are attacking the family. They are attacking religion. They are attacking marriage. You go down the line, about everything that underbridges the social fabric of this country and makes us who we are, and how we came to be, and why we fought that revolution, they're undermining that. They're ridding that. They have no use for that.

"But starting Tuesday -- last Tuesday -- freedom reigned. And it's going to continue to reign."

Porter said he understands that conservatives in states such as Cali­for­nia and Hawaii, where Demo­crats dominate, might feel like their votes do not count. Hawaii had record low voter turnout of 52.3 percent Tuesday.

"You've got to vote," he said. "You can't give up hope. We will win this battle."

Gun registration in Hawaii has hit record levels, and law enforcement agencies estimate there are about 1 million privately owned firearms in the state. But many gun enthusiasts contend the state's gun laws are too restrictive.

Police chiefs must approve applications for concealed-carry permits, for example, and the few applications received each year are typically denied.

In March the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated a U.S. District Court ruling that upheld Hawaii's concealed-carry law and other gun laws and sent the case -- Baker v. Kea­loha -- back to the lower court to review whether the laws violate Second Amendment protections.

Porter's visit was the second by an NRA president to Hawaii in the past two years. David Keene, a nationally recognized conservative who led the group, toured the state in 2012.

The dinner Saturday, which celebrated the Second Amendment and Veterans Day, showed the divide within the Hawaii Republican Party between the party's elected officials and leaders and conservative activists in the Hawaii Republican Assembly. State Rep. Bob McDermott (R, Ewa Beach-Iroquois Point) was the only elected official to attend, and no party leaders participated.

Tito Montes, president of the Hawaii Republican Assembly, and other conservatives complain the minority party refuses to speak out on conservative principles.