Throughout his congressional campaign this year, Republican Chris Collins has touted his support for the Second Amendment and especially his membership in the National Rifle Association.
But on Wednesday the national gun rights group bestowed its Political Victory Fund endorsement on none other than Collins’ Democratic opponent – Rep. Kathleen C. Hochul of Hamburg. She is one of only two New York Democrats to earn its backing.
“Kathy Hochul has a proven record of defending the Second Amendment,” said Chris W. Cox, chairman of the group. “Because of her strong support of our rights, Hochul has earned an ‘A’ rating and endorsement.”
The Hochul campaign credited her tenure as Erie County clerk for building a pro-gun record. It pointed out she streamlined the government’s permit application process and provided gun shows with staff and technology to ensure quick and safe sales. The campaign also said that in Congress, she “fought to strengthen the rights of gun owners traveling from state to state and to open public lands to hunting and fishing.”
“As a county clerk, I was a staunch advocate for sportsmen, and I have carried through on my commitment to protect their rights in Congress,” Hochul said Wednesday.
The NRA Political Victory Fund is a political action committee that ranks candidates on voting records, public statements and responses to the group’s questionnaire. In 2008, the committee said it was involved in 271 campaigns for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, winning in 230, or 85 percent.
Collins has often mentioned that he owns four pistols and won NRA endorsement during his unsuccessful congressional run in 1998. His spokesman, Michael Kracker, said Wednesday the former county executive still carries Second Amendment credentials.
“As a proud Eagle Scout and someone who has had a carry permit for over 25 years, Chris Collins has always been a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights and will continue that in Congress,” Kracker said.
“That’s why he is proud to have an ‘A’ rating from SCOPE [Shooters Committee on Political Education] and an ‘A’ rating from the NRA. Voters know that Chris Collins will be a firm advocate for sportsmen’s rights as their member of Congress.”
Collins encountered criticism from Republican primary opponent David Bellavia earlier this year over his 2008 role as a founding member of New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s County Executives Against Illegal Guns. The organization acted as a companion group to Mayors Against Illegal Guns and aimed to develop county legislation and enforcement efforts to prevent guns from falling into the hands of criminals, according to a 2008 announcement of its formation.
But Bellavia said both Bloomberg groups opposed the National Right to Carry Reciprocity Act, which permits approved gun owners to carry weapons in all states. He said the two groups called the legislation “dangerous” and claimed that a national reciprocity standard “undermines public safety.”
Collins argued during the primary campaign that his brief dalliance with Bloomberg stemmed from “trickery” and his own naivete when he first became county executive.
“I said I was against illegal guns,” he said. “Isn’t everyone against illegal guns?”
Collins said he got “snookered” into joining the group and withdrew within two weeks once he discovered it supported gun legislation he found restrictive and against the Second Amendment.