Thursday, July 17, 2014

Tennessee's Voting Gunowners Deserve Better

In early July, the Tennessee Firearms Association (TFA) released the results of its "2014 Legislative Candidate Survey." I first saw it on the organization's Facebook page on July 1st and then received a copy of the results in my e-mail inbox a few days later on the 4th. The survey's purpose was to identify the pro- and anti-gun members of the Tennessee State House and Senate, as well as their challengers, in advance of the 2014 elections. TFA wanted its members and other voters to be informed in regards to which candidates support their gun rights when they vote this year.

Source - Wikipedia
Current incumbents, challengers, and candidates for open seats were asked 26 questions, including ones about their :
  • support for a constitutional carry bill (carrying a firearm without a permit),
  • support for nullifying federal firearms laws,
  • support for allowing carry on public school grounds (by law-abiding citizens), and
  • support for the elimination of taxes and fees on firearms and ammunition sales.
The 26 questions could be answered :
  • "Y" = yes,
  • "Y+ = yes and willing to sponsor bill, or
  • "N" = no
As I looked over the questions and responses of each legislator (click here to view), my first reaction was one of disappointment, because at first glance, it appears that most of the candidates are anti-gun. But that didn't make sense ... in Tennessee. As I reviewed and thought about the results some more, I went from confused, to bewildered, to ultimately coming to the realization that the survey results are worthless. This is why I have put together the following review of the survey.

Why? Since "N" can represent an answer of "No" or "no response", the results are at best confusing and unclear. Now, in defense of TFA, when the survey was sent out to the candidates, it stated that the failure to return a completed survey "... will be assumed to have answered in the negative..."

I suspect that the "assumed to have answered in the negative" policy was to give an incentive to the candidates to complete the survey and take it seriously. I get that. However, the problem is that of the 230+ candidates listed, 165+ of them have straight "N's" across the board. That's about 72% of them. So, based upon those results, are we, voters and gunowners, expected to assume that :
  1. 72% of the candidates did not return the completed survey?
  2. Or, does it mean that 72% of them, are anti-gun?
Do either of those make any sense to you considering that we're in Tennessee? They don't to me. Consider this - if we go with assumption #2 that about 72% of the candidates, or nearly 3 out of every 4, for state legislative office in Tennessee is anti-gun, then how in the heck can any of us even legally own a gun, let alone carry one? Would we not have some of the strictest gun-control laws in the U.S.?

It's a seriously flawed assumption. The 72% anti-gun result is what I would expect if the survey had been conducted in liberal, anti-gun states like California, Illinois, and New York, not in Tennessee. Therefore, in my opinion, the survey results are seriously flawed and should not be relied upon by voters in Tennessee.

Over the last few years, TFA's rhetoric towards various members of the Tennessee legislature has become more and more intense and, in my opinion, rude on several occasions. Once you start using terms like "crucifying" and directing it at a legislator who doesn't do what you want, I think you've gone way too far. So, I'm wondering if the straight "N" rate of 72% is primarily made up of candidates who chose not to respond.

Now, some might try to make the point that, "They must have something to hide since they didn't respond." Not necessarily. Maybe they decided that, "It doesn't matter how I answer or what I say, TFA ain't gonna be happy. So, why bother?" Maybe there's now even a lack of respect for TFA due to the way some legislators have been treated. If so, who can blame them?

I generally agree with TFA on gun issues, including constitutional carry, lowering taxes on guns and ammo, and prohibiting local governments from passing gun control laws, just to name a few. However, I disagree with the way they have gone about pushing their agenda the last few years. It reminds me too much of the way some unions have pushed people around in order to get their way. I've always heard, "you get more flies with honey than with vinegar." If you're constantly demeaning the people you need to vote the legislation you want into law, what makes you think they will do so? If it were me you were treating that way, my response would be, "Screw you!!"

Shortly after TFA's 2014 survey results were published on their Facebook page on July 1st, I left the following comment / question for John Harris, TFA Executive Director :
Mr. Harris, would it be possible to modify the codes (Y, Y+, N) a little? I think it would be helpful to voters to add one for the ones that did not respond instead of lumping those in with the N's. As is it could be a little misleading to some. Plus, I think most would like to know who responded and who didn't.
To this day, 16 days later, I have not received a response from Mr. Harris. A few other members of the organization left follow-up comments after mine, but nothing from Mr. Harris. I've wondered what that means. I thought I was polite. I was just trying to make a suggestion and provide some constructive input, because I thought the proposed change would be helpful and clearer to voters. Maybe I offended him. If so, that was not my intention. Why would I? Mr. Harris is a smart guy, well-respected within the firearms community, he knows his stuff, and if he's not the best firearms related attorney in Tennessee, he's got to be in the top 2 or 3. Maybe he just didn't agree with me. Or, maybe the survey was designed to get exactly the results I have evaluated above as meaningless. I sure hate to think so, but I guess I'll never know since I never received a reply.

Official Portrait of President Ronald Reagan.
Official Portrait of President Ronald Reagan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
My whole point in sharing this survey and it's results today is to warn you about relying on election information from third parties, even conservative ones. As President Reagan used to say, "trust but verify." Glenn Beck would say, "do your own homework." I try to live by both of these. You should too. Otherwise, at some point you will get burned.

Early voting begins in Tennessee tomorrow, Friday the 18th. Prior to then, do your homework if you haven't already. If you're a gun guy like me, and you were planning on relying on the "2014 TFA Candidate Survey" in making your choices as to whom will represent you, I encourage you rely on something else. However, don't take my word for it either. Check it out yourself. Look at the results. Look at the candidates and incumbents you know to be pro-gun due to their record, including their votes, and see if the survey results match what you already know. In at least some cases, it may not.

In my opinion, the survey results are somewhat misleading at best and deceptive at worst. I'm concerned that TFA may be going the way of the NRA by becoming unreliable. It's one reason I resigned my NRA membership 5 years ago. Let's hope the TFA changes course.

Tennessee's gunowners, and voters, deserve better.

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