Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Congressional Sportsmen shoot debrief...

Well, despite being surrounded by Congresspeople, Seantors, aides and all manner of Beltway Beasties, we survived unscathed and were able to Escape From Maryland back to the Real World!

The function of the Great Congressional Shoot-out is to get Dem and & GOP'ers together to whack a few clay pigeons, rub palms with firearms industry folk, schmooze and gnaw down some really good Maryland seafood. On the whole, I think it's a Very Good Thing for all the obvious reasons. We're coming up on a vote on the lawsuit pre-emption bill, and heaven knows we need all the support we can get. And part of that support is getting people pumped up on the issue. I think it's great to have politicos shooting alongside the people who've been spending millions fighting these bullshit lawsuits. Kudos all around!

As I promised, I took our Sport Shooting Agenda directly into the Belly of the Beast. I sat down wiith the heads of the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation and laid out the argument that sport shooting was getting the short straw — and continued short-strawing would lead to an invevitable, unwanted and unnecessary confrontation. I was gratified that the CSF'ers could actually talk about the issue — they had heard "increasing rumblings" and had had staff meetings on the "new issue."

I also had a bunch of informal talks (a Newsweek way of saying "friendly conversations") with the Powers-That-Be at the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), for whom I once labored, about sport shooting and the disparity between it and hunting fundiing. They gave me a heads-up on a couple of initiatives about handguns from NSSF that are much more in line with what I think we need.

All that's good. It was obvious this blog has a very high readership within the firearms industry (the way you can tell that is the number of people who spontanious tell you that they nderstand it "isn't personal"). I assured everyone I talked to that I would make sure that sport shooting issues stayed on the table.

As befits any trip inside the Beltway Universe, I did my share of political schmoozing. I gotta say that Rep. Katherine Harris, the hero of the 2000 Florida Chad Circuses, stone-cold rocks. She's smart, funny, off-beat and an authentic ex-barrel-racing Florida cowgirl. Of course, it probably helped that my producer, Robin Berg, went to his knees and thanked her for going to the mats in 2000. Also — WARNING! INAPPROPRIATE SEXIST COMMENT ALERT! — she's much more of a hottie than her canned publicity pictures indicate. Suffice to say she could give Conservative uber-babe Ann Coulter a run for her money.

I got to spend a little time with my Senator, Wayne Allard from Colorado, a former veternarian who has done yeoman's work for conservative causes. My immediate first impression was "stand-up guy." I'll be happy to work for his reelection.

Finally, Rep. Mike Thompson, the Dem from Napa Valley in California, and I had a wonderful conversation about one of both our favorite restaurants, Mustards Grill in Napa. He's lucky enough to have chef Cindy Pawlcyn as a close personal friend who cooks for special events at his house. With her cooking, believe me, he's got a clear shot at the Presidency. Let me recommend the tuna sandwich with baked beans...again and again and again...

And, yeah, the tension over judicial nominees hung over the event like blackwater swamp miasma. Several of the congressional folks told me the timing for this event was perfect, since they'd all be "working late" staring today. Good luck, guys! Kick some butt for us!

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