National Rifle Association members were surprised at their annual banquet Saturday in Sumner County when House Republican Caucus Chair Debra Maggart strolled in. On the previous Thursday, the NRA used between $75,000 and $100,000 in independent expenditures to turn Maggart out of office.
It was a particularly vicious campaign. The NRA, upset that its guns-in-parking-lots bill didn't get a vote last session, singled Maggart out to be made an example. The campaign included a billboard with Republican Maggart paired with Barack Obama. She was defeated by Courtney Rodgers.
Not only did Maggart attend the NRA banquet, she bought her usual $200 table for guests. She also bought a $400 pistol and gave it to the group to raffle off as a fund-raiser, as she had previously promised. Maggart is a lifetime member of the NRA and had an "A" rating from the group until they downgraded her to a "D" during the campaign.
Maggart was the only member of the House leadership who had an opponent, so she bore the brunt of the group's anger. The campaigning and the money spent against Maggart came from the national NRA. Local NRA members, who held the banquet, supported Maggart.
The bill was opposed by business groups and the Farm Bureau because it prevents employers from controlling who comes on their property with a gun. The bill allows employees to bring guns to work as long as they are locked in the car or truck. The bill was sent to a summer study committee to work out a compromise. Summer study is also a place where controversial bills go to die.
The NRA plans to bring the bill back next session.