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By Larry Pratt

November 10, 2005

Republicans have lost the governor�s mansion for a second time in a row in Virginia. And they did it the same way each time.

Former Virginia state senator and then Attorney General, Mark Earley, ran a campaign very similar to the one just finished by former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore. Earley had a bad record on guns and indicated no willingness to woo the gun vote during the election. He also thought little of his dalliance with the state�s labor bosses, even though Virginia is a strongly right-to-work state.

This year, Jerry Kilgore showed that following the Earley playbook four years later would yield the same result � failure. Kilgore refused to return questionnaires from Gun Owners of America and two state pro-gun groups. He was repeatedly asked to reply, but nothing was ever forthcoming.

Kilgore even managed to insult one of the leading Virginia pro-Second Amendment activists, Philip Van Cleave, head of the Virginia Citizens Defense League. A Kilgore spokesman issued this gratuitous slur against Van Cleave in an effort to justify Kilgore�s refusal to answer the group�s questionnaire: "While we have great respect for the members of the VCDL, their President Philip Van Cleave unfortunately has no credibility on Second Amendment issues and that is why we did not participate.�

In contrast, state senator Bill Bolling won his race for Lt. Governor. Some have tried to explain away his victory by pointing to the very liberal record of former Rep. Leslie Byrne, Bolling�s opponent. That fails to explain how Kilgore lost to former Richmond mayor and current Lt. Governor Tim Kaine who is just as liberal as Leslie Byrne.

The big difference was that Bolling campaigned as an unabashed conservative, emphasizing his position in favor of guns and opposition to abortion and taxes. Kilgore fudged on all three of these issues which are the base of the GOP vote.

Democrats such as DNC chairman Howard Dean are claiming that an anti-Republican mood was manifest in yesterday�s results, particularly in Virginia. But somehow the mood shifted while folks were voting, because victorious Bolling actually got more votes than did the defeated Kilgore.

Republicans should not ignore the Kilgore debacle, however. If his defeat does not reflect an anti-Republican trend, it does reveal the problem that Republicans are having nationally � ignoring their base.

In the Congress, there has yet to be one purely pro-gun piece of legislation enacted, but several incremental anti-gun measures have been signed into law. These include a renewal of a plastic gun ban (even though such a weapon does not exist), a requirement that retail gun sales include a gun lock (something which should never be used on a gun intended for self defense) and a study to see if more bullets for civilian ownership should be banned (expanding the ban on so-called armor piercing bullets). This does not include a parts importation ban that was issued by the BATFE earlier this year. The ban was not too surprising, even though it represented a reversal of years of approval, because the BATFE�s new boss is the very anti-gun Attorney General, Albert Gonzalez.

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If Republicans insist on using the Earley-Kilgore playbook during the 2006 elections, they can expect to see the same results that Earley and Kilgore got. Perhaps the question we should be asking the GOP is, �Are you feeling lucky, boys?�

� 2005 Larry Pratt - All Rights Reserved

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Larry Pratt has been Executive Director of Gun Owners of America for 27 years. GOA is a national membership organization of 300,000 Americans dedicated to promoting their second amendment freedom to keep and bear arms.

GOA lobbies for the pro-gun position in Washington and is involved in firearm issues in the states. GOA's work includes providing legal assistance to those involved in lawsuits with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the federal firearms law enforcement agency.

Pratt has appeared on numerous national radio and TV programs such as NBC's Today Show, CBS' Good Morning America, CNN's Crossfire and Larry King Live, Fox's Hannity & Colmes, MSNBC's Phil Donahue show and many others. He has debated Congressmen James Traficant, Jr. (D-OH), Charles Rangel (D-NY), Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), and Vice President Al Gore, among others. His columns have appeared in newspapers across the country.

He published a book, Armed People Victorious, in 1990 and was editor of a book, Safeguarding Liberty: The Constitution & Militias, 1995. His latest book, On the Firing Line: Essays in the Defense of Liberty was published in 2001.

Pratt has held elective office in the state legislature of Virginia, serving in the House of Delegates. Pratt directs a number of other public interest organizations and serves as the Vice-Chairman of the American Institute for Cancer Research.

The GOA web site is: Pratt's weekly talk show Live Fire is archived there at:  

E-Mail: [email protected]









Republicans should not ignore the Kilgore debacle, however. If his defeat does not reflect an anti-Republican trend, it does reveal the problem that Republicans are having nationally...