GRNC President - Paul Valone

By F. Paul Valone

June 2, 2014



Every election year, it becomes necessary to reiterate fundamental differences between Grass Roots North Carolina and the National Rifle Association, including why GRNC periodically repudiates NRA-backed legislation or candidates. Given GRNC’s exponential growth over the past three years, many new members are unfamiliar with reasons for the sometimes antithetical relationship between the NRA and GRNC stretching back to 1994.




In truth, we created GRNC’s “Remember in November” objective candidate evaluation project in 1994 in response to bad NRA endorsements, specifically state senators Marvin Ward and Ted Kaplan, both of whom we got on record as supporting bans on semi-automatic firearms.


Since then, the list of bad NRA endorsements has included Governors Jim Hunt and Mike Easley, former Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight, former Sen. Fountain Odom (who gutted our original concealed handgun bill), Congressmen Heath Shuler and Larry Kissell, and a host of others.


The battle over Forsyth County incumbent Sheriff Bill Schatzman is just the most recent example. Lest you think a sheriff battle is unimportant, please understand that since Sandy Hook, North Carolina is experiencing a dramatic increase in sheriffs imposing illegal requirements on gun permit applicants, all with the backing of their lobbying arm, the powerful NC Sheriffs’ Association. The GRNC Political Victory Fund targeted Schatzman to deliver a message that such illegal restrictions will no longer be tolerated.


(Incidentally, the NRA’s stance on the Schatzman endorsement became even more laughable when they responded to complaints on their Facebook page by saying, “We’re trying to protect your gun rights, not nominate candidates who can’t win…” What they failed to mention is that if Schatzman’s opponent, pro-gun challenger Dave Griffith, had won the primary – and he nearly did – he would have faced no opponent whatsoever in November.)


The NRA has two principal problems with its candidate endorsements: First, it purposely favors incumbents over superior challengers under its so-called “friendly incumbent” policy. Second, it has a history of making “deals” to inflate candidate ratings, many of which are very bad deals. Although the NRA tries to curry favor by inflating candidate ratings, in reality rewarding politicians’ bad behavior motivates more bad behavior.


Examples of “bad deals for A’s” include awarding Odom, who chaired the subcommittee which gutted HB 90, our concealed handgun bill, an “A” and endorsement in exchange for adding NRA-certified instructors to the list of those qualified to teach for permits, inflating Gov. Easley from an “F” to an “A” after he signed (get this) a bill for NRA commemorative license plates, and endorsing both Heath Shuler and his chief of staff as described below.


By contrast, GRNC tracks voting records, survey scores, bill sponsorship and leaders’ willingness to move good bills and kill bad ones, plugging it all into a spreadsheet which objectively estimates how often a given candidate can be expected to agree with a control group we call “conservative gun owners.” That control group is comprised of our own Life and Benefactor members. GRNC does not make “deals” for candidate evaluations; the candidate gets what he or she earns, no more, no less.


The advantages of GRNC’s objective candidate evaluation system are twofold: First, you get a “Remember in November” voter guide with accurate assessments of candidates. Second, even marginal candidates tend to vote with us because they know they will be held accountable if they don’t. And rest assured, when a candidate crosses us, our federally-registered political action committee, the GRNC Political Victory Fund, makes a point of going after them, each time, every time. Win, lose, or draw.




Please understand that when the NRA backs good bills, GRNC backs the NRA. Unfortunately, some of the NRA’s legislative action is anything but good. In reverse chronological order, here are a few examples.


HB 937

Last year, the NRA gave Speaker Thom Tillis cover by renouncing the repeal of the purchase permit system contained in the omnibus House Bill 937, nearly allowing Tillis to adjourn the legislative session without bringing HB 937 to a conference committee vote. This year, they followed up by giving Tillis an endorsement over superior challengers.


State of Emergency Gun Ban

In 2011, the NRA tried to derail attorney Alan Gura’s attempts to expand the interpretation of the Second Amendment by the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS). Previously, Gura won the seminal Heller and McDonald decisions not thanks to the NRA, but despite its best efforts to derail the lawsuits.


Gura contacted GRNC to file his next case before the McDonald decision had even been rendered, swearing us to secrecy to avoid alerting the NRA. What became Bateman v. Perdue, a lawsuit over our ban on carrying firearms outside the home during declared states of emergency, was a cooperative effort between Gura, the Second Amendment Foundation, and GRNC. It was intended to get SCOTUS to reinforce the right to bear arms outside the home.


The NRA responded by pressuring Democrat Sen. Doug Berger (not to be confused with Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger) to file legislation repealing the state of emergency gun ban, which would have rendered Gura’s suit moot, causing it to be dismissed. When the Senate failed to move Berger’s bill (thanks to GRNC), the NRA first issued alerts targeting Republicans, then tried unsuccessfully to graft it onto HB 650 (Castle Doctrine) on the Senate floor – another subterfuge derailed by GRNC and Senate Republicans. NRA representative Anthony Roulette became particularly incensed when I told him we hoped to lose the court case, which would allow it to proceed by appeal toward SCOTUS.


Unfortunately, we won the lawsuit and the state chose not to appeal, so the case will never see SCOTUS. However, the fact that the state of emergency gun ban was declared unconstitutional under the Second Amendment allowed us to go back to the General Assembly the following year and not just water it down, but repeal it entirely. On this effort, by the way, GRNC had to beat on Republican Sen. Pete Brunstetter, demonstrating yet again our willingness to go after whomever stands in the way of gun rights, regardless of party affiliation.


Disclose Act

In 2010, the “Disclose Act” (H.R. 5175  and S. 3628) introduced by anti-gun Democrats including Sen. Charles Schumer, would have required any non-profit such as GRNC to disclose its full membership list if it even mentioned a candidate publicly before an election. The intent, of course, was to muzzle organizations like ours.


Rather than opposing the entire bill, however, the NRA tasked Congressman Heath Shuler with carving out a narrow exemption for itself, leaving all other gun groups to twist in the wind. (It also rewarded Shuler with an undeserved endorsement, apparently extending it even to his chief of staff who unsuccessfully ran for Shuler’s seat, when he chose not to run again, losing to GRNC-backed Republican Mark Meadows.) Fortunately, the Disclose Act failed, in no small part thanks to the efforts of a coalition of gun rights organizations which included GRNC.


SB 680

In 2001, the NRA was pushing worthy legislation to prevent cities from suing gun makers out of business. Despite the NRA kissing the ring of Senate leader Marc Basnight, however, Democrats refused to move the bill. So the NRA made a deal with anti-gun lobbyists for North Carolinians “Against Gun Violence” and Senate leadership to merge SB 680 with SB 1097, an equally comatose but anti-gun bill which could have shut down most gun shows in the state.


Just before the Senate Judiciary meeting in April at which SB 680 and SB 1097 were merged into a single “Jekyll and Hyde” bill, NRA representative Nicole Palya gave me a “courtesy call” to inform me of the fact. When I objected, she promised that the bills would again be split in its upcoming Finance Committee meeting.


When the NRA failed to follow through on its promise to re-split the bills, GRNC launched an alert blasting both the NRA and Senate leadership, to which the NRA responded by telling members we were lying about the bill, and that it didn’t contain any gun show language. In response, GRNC directed people to the General Assembly website where they could see the bill for themselves. (Recollection is that the NRA spokesman lying about SB 680 was none other than our current incompetent, Anthony Roulette.) Although SB 680 passed the Senate with gun show restrictions intact, GRNC was able to kill it in the House.




On GRNC’s Facebook page, some members have recently suggested we “reach out” to the NRA to give them information and let them avoid “mistakes” such as the Schatzman endorsement. To these well-intentioned individuals, I offer two answers:


First, one can’t reach out to someone who doesn’t want to be reached. NRA representative Anthony Roulette and I have each other’s cell phone numbers. We routinely exchange (usually antithetical) emails. I can assure you that Roulette has access to the all of the information we do. For reasons known only to the NRA, however, he doesn’t want to hear it.


Second, it is a stretch to call the NRA’s actions, particularly with respect to the Schatzman endorsement, “mistakes.” Roulette has been the NRA representative in North Carolina for something like ten years. Last year, when Schatzman spoke out against repealing our archaic Jim Crow-era purchase permit system, it was undoubtedly Roulette who authorized an alert targeting Schatzman using the sheriff’s own words.


Yet less than a year later, Roulette’s office responded to complaints about the Schatzman endorsement by claiming Schatzman supports repeal of the purchase permit system. If that is a “mistake,” it is born of monumental incompetence.


Here is the far more likely scenario: When the first GRNC-PVF pieces of mail targeting Schatzman began to hit, Schatzman responded by having one of his minions send us a certified letter (why he sent it certified is beyond me), copying a large number of Republicans and public officials and claiming we were lying about Schatzman’s (thoroughly documented) anti-gun record. Second, he whined to Roulette, who promptly issued a belated letter of endorsement (far too late to have been pre-planned), precisely because it was GRNC orchestrating the attack.


Does that sound like someone we can “reach out” to?




As previously stated, when NRA does the right thing, GRNC will back its efforts. When NRA does the wrong thing, we will publicly repudiate its efforts. Doing so does not “divide” the gun rights community, it strengthens us by giving gun rights supporters accurate ammunition to defend their rights.


The alternative would be to sit on our hands as bad candidates are elected and bad bills are passed. Having co-founded directed Grass Roots North Carolina for twenty years, let me assure you that is something I will never do. The difference between the two organizations, you see, is that unlike the NRA, GRNC might compromise on tactics, but we never compromise on principles.