The St. Gabriel Possenti Society has named GOP Sen. Mike Johanns (NE) as its "gun saint" of self-defense for his work to thwart gun control laws. In other news, there is a Patron Saint of Handgunners. Or will be, rather, if the Vatican approves the request of the Society.
A quick rundown of the GOP and Libertarian candidates running for President shows that all of the frontrunners except Romney have opposed gun control laws. On the other side, Obama supports the Second Amendment with a caveat about individual ownership:
"I think it's important for us to recognize that we've got a tradition of handgun ownership and gun ownership generally... We also have a violence on the streets that is the result of illegal handgun usage. And so I think there is nothing wrong with a community saying we are going to take those illegal handguns off the streets.
OK, we all knew it existed, that strong link between the NRA and the Christian Right, but has it gotten stronger? Let's put it this way: it's as strong as it ever was.
The Christian Right - NRA Link
Perhaps the most powerful visage of a strong link between the Christian Right and the NRA is that of Pastor ("Rome Is The Whore of Babylon") John Hagee. He is the headliner for Citizens United For Israel and is the most prominent Christian Zionist around. He came to prominence during the 2008 election as one of John McCain's questionable religious mentors (Rod Parsley being the other one of note). His insistence that Israel must the be spark of Armageddon has caused him to be both vilified and glorified - especially in NRA circles.
So it may not be a surprise that the ties of the Christian Right and the NRA have gotten stronger since 2008.
Michele Bachmman addressed the NRA's 2011 annual meeting with:
"In 18 months, we'll face one of the most important elections of our time. In 2012, we have the opportunity to repeal the current president and elect a Constitutional conservative who will protect our Second Amendment rights."
Rick Perry drew cheers from a speech at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University when he was introduced by the chancellor: "Today's speaker also has an A+ rating, but it's from the National Rifle Association."
Newt Gingrich gave a speech to the NRA equating American exceptionalism, the Second Amendment and the "Creator's" God-given rights (see below at 3:57 mark).
Recently, Rick Santorum used a 1994 of Mitt Romney's to underscore a certain amount of distance between Romney and the NRA. The quote "I don't stand in line with the NRA" was taken out of context during a different between Romney and Ted Kennedy concerning gun control laws, but was not a blanket denegration of the NRA.
The Problem With Mitt and Obama
Perhaps more than his Mormonism, Mitt Romney's support for gun control (ala the Brady Bill) has caused concern among the Christian Right: it seems that he flip-flops on his association with the NRA more than any other issue. For while he is an actual member of the NRA, he is strongly against private use of assault weapons and has worked with local gun groups in Massachusetts to restrict gun ownership.
And the Christian Right/NRA crowd won't stand for even a tepid involvement in gun control:
While delivering one of the liveliest and best-received speeches at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said the president's low-key approach to gun rights during his first term was "a "conspiracy to ensure re-election by lulling gun owners to sleep."
Will gun control become a major issue in the election? Probably not, but the Christian Right would like it to be: along with DOMA, the repeal of DADT, contraception and health care reform, gun control is a major "social conservative" issue. And if Romney wins the nomination, his support of the Brady Bill just may be another mark against him.