Rep. John Campbell (R-Irvine) scored A- grades from the National Rifle Association heading into his successful 2008 and 2010 elections. (By comparison, Orange County's lone Democrat in Congress, Loretta Sanchez, received a D).
But Campbell recently found himself in an unfamiliar spot: in the middle of the NRA's crosshairs.
His sin? Co-sponsoring a bill that would pass the cost and burden of killing predators of livestock from U.S. taxpayers to the farm and ranch owners that own the herds.
Campbell and the NRA agree on this: managing wildlife and wildlife predators costs millions of dollars annually. They just disagree on who should pay for it. Of course, the NRA can't couch its argument that way, as it sounds like support of a government give-away. Next thing you know, the NRA will advocate free Obamacare for gunmen who accidentally shoot off their pee-pees.
So, to rile up the NRA card-carrying masses, the gun lovers labeled the legislation an "anti-hunting bill." And its sponsors, like the Humane Society of the United States, are "radical anti-hunting groups."
What Campbell sponsored with Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Gary Peters (D-MI) was the Lethal Predator Control Amendment to H.R. 2112, the Agriculture appropriations bill. Campbell said he crossed the aisle because he didn't agree taxpayers should spend $11 million annually on things like setting of traps with "inhumane and dangerous" cyanide canisters, "expensive and inefficient" Agriculture Department-funded hunts by helicopters and taxpayers in general being responsible for the protection of privately owned livestock.
"At a time when so many lawmakers are focused on deficit reduction, we can save millions of taxpayer dollars and save animals by reforming harmful government programs," the Humane Society's Michael Markarian explained in a statement supporting the amendment. "Costly and inhumane killing of predators with poisons and aerial gunning are wastes of tax dollars."
Fortunately for the gun nuts, among the teabaggers and other supposed fiscal conservatives they helped sweep into Congress in 2010 was one of the largest classes of NRA A earners ever. On June 16, the amendment was defeated with a 287 to 132 vote.
Little Johnny Campbell would be wise to recognize the principal is now watching him.
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"We will continue to oppose efforts like the Campbell-DeFazio amendment that seek to diminish essential wildlife and predator management programs that protect our hunting heritage," reads a statement from NRA Institute for Legislative Action executive director Chris W. Cox (not to be confused with C. Chris Cox, the former occupant of the congressional seat Campbell now sits in).
Cambell, though, in a statement of his own, noted he remains a member of both the NRA and Humane Society, which is April bestowed the congressman its "Legislative Leader" award for animal protection legislation in 2010.
Campbell does not believe the interests of gun- and animal-lovers must be mutually exclusive.
"I will continue to speak out for and vote to support the Second Amendment," he wrote. "And, I will just as vociferously support laws that protect animals, both wild and domesticated, from abuse at the hands of the dark side of human behavior. I'm a gun-owning animal lover. And, I think that's just fine."