The National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund has sent out a mailer urging voters to support Darryl Rouson in the Florida Senate District 19 Democratic primary election later this month.
The powerful gun lobbying group gives the St. Petersburg House Democrat a “C” grade in the primary election.
That’s obviously better than the “F” grades it gives two of Rouson’s opponent in the race, House District 59 Representative Ed Narain and former state Representative Betty Reed. The NRA lists a question mark next to the fourth Democrat in the primary, civil justice attorney Augie Ribeiro.
The Florida NRA strongly opposed Rouson’s initial attempt to pass a bill in the 2015 session that would have made it illegal to discharge a firearm for recreational purposes in residential neighborhoods. He proposed it in response to news reports about a St. Petersburg man’s firing range of sand and wooden pallets, which was taken down from his yard in Lakewood Estates before he could fire a shot. It ultimately was killed in its first committee stop in the Florida House.
However, during the summer of 2015, both the NRA and the Florida Police Chiefs agreed on revised language for the proposal, and it passed easily during the 2016 session.
“This is an attempt by Marion (Hammer) or whoever put it out to look like it was all their idea, and we just went along for the ride,” said Barry Edwards, Rouson’s campaign manager.
Edwards stated that the proposal which passed in the Legislature this winter was the first gun-control bill of any kind to get through since 1987.
When asked if the NRA’s support — officially not an endorsement — could be used by his political opponents as a tool against him in the SD 19 race, Edwards said there was nothing he could do about that.
“I’m always worried when people can misconstrue things,” Edwards said. “If you look at his record on guns, he’s the only Democrat or Republican in Florida history to rollback and put on gun restrictions going back to 1987. There’s only one.”
Rouson’s opponents seized on the NRA support.
“Rep. Rouson truly earned the NRA endorsement by caving to the gun lobby and voting in favor of Stand Your Ground, one of the single worst pieces of legislation that Florida has seen in the last 20 years. They noted in their endorsement that he is someone they can work with,” said Narain. “I strongly oppose Stand Your Ground, support common sense gun control, and stood up to the NRA in every single gunfight of the last two years. I have absolutely no interest in working with the NRA, and for this, they gave me an F rating.”
“It’s outrageous at a time when gun violence is out of control that Darryl Rouson would be a pro-gun mouthpiece in the legislature for the NRA,” said Ribeiro.
Betty Reed said the legislation that Rouson passed with the aid of the NRA “wasn’t really a big deal,” and she said she would gladly allow him to be the candidate backed by the gun rights organization.