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Missteps Aside, Nra Best Defender Of Gun Rights Lawmakers Still Support Group Despite Controversial Fund-Raising Letter

The National Rifle Association went too far calling federal lawenforcement officers “jack-booted government thugs,” but the NRA remains the best and loudest defender of gun-owners’ rights, Northwest Republicans say.

“I think the NRA made some mistakes. I think they have acknowledged that,” said freshman Rep. Jim Bunn, R-Ore., who has the group’s support though he is not a member.

“They still clearly are the nation’s No. 1 group stepping forward to defend Second Amendment rights. No one else is even close in the defense of the right to bear arms.”

For some, that did not excuse the language in the letter.

Former House Speaker Tom Foley, D-Wash., resigned from the NRA this past week after more than 20 years of membership, joining former President George Bush and Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich.

“I think it’s wrong for an organization that makes a point of supposedly defending law enforcement in general … to be one of the most severe and critical attackers of federal law enforcement,” Foley told reporters in disclosing his NRA resignation at a news conference here.

Freshman Rep. Randy Tate, R-Wash., dismissed Foley’s move.

“Tom Foley resigned his support for the Second Amendment a long time ago. Yesterday he just made it official,” Tate said.

“Foley is kind of old news,” said Rep. Linda Smith, R-Wash., who won her seat last fall by defeating another gun-rights defender, former Democratic Rep. Jolene Unsoeld.

On Friday, the head of the NRA was urged to denounce the letter by 40 Democratic members of Congress.

“We find it reprehensible that an organization such as the NRA would use slanderous and inflammatory language against federal law enforcement agencies and their employees for its own monetary gain,” Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., and Rep. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a letter signed by 40 House members and sent to Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s executive vice president.

LaPierre issued a qualified apology for the letter earlier this month, saying he hadn’t meant to tar all federal officers.

Smith cautioned against stereotyping.

“For the NRA to say or to have implied that all FBI agents are thugs is not good. … All NRA members are not bad and all FBI agents are not thugs,” she said.

Rep. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., agreed.

“Gun owners in the Northwest cannot all be painted with one brush,” he said, noting that they “differ very significantly among themselves on key issues.”

At the same time, Wyden said, the NRA has “one of the most valuable resources in American politics, which is the ability to mobilize people who feel very intensely very quickly.”

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