You know all the big issues of 2012 have been beaten to death when an old chestnut like guns can suddenly seem fresh. After a season of sequestration and “Obamacare,” jobs and coal, abortion and Medicare, a hot-pink flyer on gun rights seemed to alight on car windshields like the first robin of spring.
The cars were parked outside Monday night’s debate between Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and his Democratic challenger, Wayne Powell. There wasn’t a peep about guns during the debate itself, which was put on by the Virginia Chamber of Commerce and stuck mostly to well-worn economic issues.
But out in the parking garage, the flyers conjured a new subject with all-caps urgency: “ERIC CANTOR — ANTI-GUN.”
“No elected official is more skilled at having voters think he is pro-gun — but really is not — than Congressman Eric Cantor (R),” it read. “A most recent example of his anti-gun leanings is his decision to hold his ‘2012 Republican Round-Up’ at an anti-gun facility.”
The Virginia Citizens Defense League was behind the flyer. The group is ticked off that Saturday’s event will take place at the Snagajob Pavilion at Innisbrook, a privately owned outdoor concert venue in Glen Allen that does not allow concealed weapons. Republicans who flock to the country fair-style gathering will get to sip beer, eat barbecue, enjoy live music, even scale a climbing wall. But they cannot pack heat.
“Where he holds his fundraiser every year ... doesn’t allow firearms,” said Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League. “There are other facilities you can use. Why don’t you pick someplace that welcomes gun-owners?”
Ray Allen, a senior strategist for Cantor’s campaign, noted that the event is neither a fundraiser nor something Cantor has organized, although the congressman will be the featured speaker. It’s a free event put on by the 7th District Republican Committee.
Allen also noted that Cantor had just this week received the endorsement of the National Rifle Association.
“He has a very, very consistent pro-gun voting record in Congress,” Allen said.
Cantor and Van Cleave’s group have been crosswise for nearly 20 years, since Cantor, as a state lawmaker, supported limiting handgun purchases in Virginia to one per month. The Citizens Defense League successfully pushed for a repeal of that limit during this year’s General Assembly session.
“The true pro-gun groups haven’t forgiven him,” said Dave “Mudcat” Saunders, a veteran political strategist working with Powell. Saunders said Powell supported eliminating the one-gun-a-month limit.