NRA Rating System: A Political Tool of Influence


Voters across the United States are no stranger to the variety of endorsements and contributions that politicians receive from various lobby organizations. Each organization represents either a specific or a number of politically-infused topics. These lobbyists themselves are one of the heated topics of debate due to their apparent influence on a politician’s decisions.  One such organization that has become a common household name is the National Rifle Association (NRA).

Originally designed to promote gun owner safety, the NRA has developed into a political influencer across almost every level of government; federal and state. During election season, the NRA’s Political Victory Fund (PVF) will “grade” political candidates on their actions in relation to pro-gun rights and the 2nd Amendment. Such grades have been issued for the upcoming 2018 Midterm and Kansas Governor Election.

Current Republican Governor Jeff Colyer, Secretary of State Kris Kobach, and Primary Candidate Ken Selzer have all received “A” ratings from the NRA-PVF. An “A” rating indicates that this individual “has supported NRA positions on key votes in elective office or a candidate with a demonstrated record of support on Second Amendment issues”, according to the NRA-PVF website. Primary Candidate Patrick Kucera received an “AQ” for not having a voting record on the issue, as he has yet to hold political office, where Joseph Tutera received a “B” rating for being a “generally pro-gun candidate”.

Meanwhile, candidates James (Jim) Barnett and Tyler Ruzich each earned an “F” rating, meaning the candidate is a “True enemy of gun owners’ rights. A consistent anti-gun candidate who always opposes gun owners’ rights and/or actively leads anti-gun legislative efforts, or sponsors anti-gun legislation.”

The rating did not sit well with Barnett, who promptly issued a response on the matter. The press release said Barnett had refused to complete and sign the NRA-PVF’s questionnaire because he did not want to “become a whipping post for declining to be the NRA’s gubernatorial lap dog.”

“I just don’t think Kansans want their next governor beholding to any special interest PAC with clearly financial gains behind it, ” Barnett said in the release. “It is disappointing that would-be nominees Kobach and Colyer are readily jumping on any bandwagon such as these to get themselves on the general election ballot. For me, I will continue my pledge to represent the people of this state with no strings attached.”

On the Democratic side, primary candidates Carl Brewer, Laura Kelly, and Joshua Svaty also received “F” ratings. Candidates Arden Anderson and Jack Bergeson received “?” for allegedly refusing to answer the questionnaire. The NRA-PVF website claims this rating indicates indifference towards the subject of gun rights ” if not outright hostility, to gun owners’ and sportsmen’s rights.”

The rating system is one of the many ways the NRA can influence voters in upcoming elections. Colyer has even received an endorsement by the organization, which Kobach has claimed it is “incumbent protection.” In theory, this should encourage registered Republican voters in Kansas to have more reason in voting for Colyer. However, a study by University of Maryland Professor James G. Gimpel in his article “Packing Heat at the Polls: Gun Ownership, Interest Group Endorsements, and Voting Behavior in Gubernatorial Elections” examine how such endorsements affect the voting population, specifically those who are gun owners.

“The results indicate that NRA endorsements make little difference,” Gimple wrote.  “Gun owners are a distinct-issue public, especially in close races and in states with restrictive gun control laws on the books, but these differences appear to have little to do with NRA involvement.”

Primary elections will be held in Kansas on August 7 with the general election this coming November. For more information on voting in your area, contact the local Department of the Treasurer office.

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