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George Bush’s divorce from the NRA

On the occasions of George Bush’s death, it is worthwhile to ask why this hunter and gun owner had such a contentious relationship with the National Rifle Association.

The NYT explained:

In 1988, Mr. Bush campaigned with the endorsement of the National Rifle Association, and many have thought of him as a supporter of gun rights. During his presidency, he stalled the passing of the federal Brady bill that would have required a five-day waiting period to buy handguns, to allow for background checks.

But in 1995, Mr. Bush wrote a letter to the rifle association rescinding his lifetime membership. He was responding to comments by Wayne LaPierre of the N.R.A., who had said that the Clinton administration’s “semiauto ban gives jackbooted government thugs more power to take away our constitutional rights, break in our doors, seize our guns, destroy our property, and even injure or kill us.”

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That language offended a “sense of decency and honor,” Mr. Bush wrote. “It indirectly slanders a wide array of government law enforcement officials, who are out there, day and night, laying their lives on the line for all of us.”

Critics of Mr. Bush’s change in position said that he had long been a supporter of gun control, but that he had joined the rifle association only to appeal to voters in the 1988 election. Mr. Bush had supported gun control during his failed Senate campaign in 1970, and as president, he favored a ban on the import of some semiautomatic weapons. Because of this, and because he did not vigorously oppose the Brady Bill, the N.R.A. declined to endorse him during his 1992 re-election campaign.

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