The National Rifle Association distanced itself Tuesday from a comment made by a lobbyist for one of its “chartered organizations” in Wisconsin, who said recently that gun rights proponents need only to wait out the “Connecticut Effect” before passing laws loosening restrictions on guns.
Earlier in the day, the line drew the ire of Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), who called on NRA leadership to “repudiate and reject” it. In an email to TPM, the NRA didn’t do that, but it did say its organization had nothing to do with the lobbyist who made the comment.
“Bob Welch is neither a staff lobbyist nor a contract lobbyist for the National Rifle Association,” the NRA said in an email. “He does not speak for the NRA.”
While it’s not clear whether Welch, a former Wisconsin state legislator, has ever been paid by the NRA to lobby the state legislature in Wisconsin, it is clear that he and the group he represents has claimed to speak for the NRA in the past.
Welch is a registered lobbyist for Wi-FORCE (Wisconsin Firearm Owners, Ranges, Clubs & Educators, Inc.). The Wi-FORCE website is emblazoned with the words “An NRA Chartered State Association” as well as a newsfeed from the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, the group’s lobbying arm.
The NRA did not immediately respond to a followup email from TPM seeking clarification. But Wi-FORCE ties itself to the NRA in official literature. In a section titled “Who is Wisconsin FORCE and why you should join?” as part of an application to the group, the organization claims to have won “Association of the Year” from the NRA in 2011.
Welch was quoted in the document claiming to work closely with the NRA.
“In just the last few years, Wisconsin FORCE has gone from an organization that few in State Government had heard of, to an organization that is widely recognized as the strong right hand of the NRA in Wisconsin,” he said, according to the recruitment letter.
In an email to TPM Tuesday, Welch distanced himself from the NRA.
“Bob Welch is not now nor has he ever been a lobbyist for the NRA,” read the email from The Welch Group, Welch’s lobbying firm.