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Gunning for the rural vote
Show me the contents of a personís wallet and Iíll outline their life. My skinny wallet, for example, holds just two credit cards (likes convenience, hates consumer debt), a grocery store discount card (cheapskate), a driverís license, voterís registration card and fishing license (name, address, age, dull life), as well as a blood donor card (O Positive).

Also tucked inside the folded leather are 12 bucks (cheap and broke), a golf driving range card (doesnít quit) and my Firearm Ownerís Identification, or FOID, card (gun owner).

The former doesnít make me a Tiger Woods and the latter doesnít make me a gun advocate. My FOID, however, made it legal to sit in a turkey blind two years ago when a friendís son asked me to take him hunting after school.

The then-acquired FOID also carried the added bonus of baptizing me a legal gun owner after nearly 35 years as an unwashed, illegal gun owner.

Not that being an illegal gun owner crimped my hunting-gathering ability. I hadnít fired my rabbit-plinking, single-shot .22 or my 12-gauge pump in decades.

Fact is my guns arenít even mine; family members have held and, I suppose, even used them when I left hunting for college in 1973. After that, the gun-totiní sports simply slipped from interest.

Since then the closest Iíve gotten to guns is to occasionally fire some friendsí anti-aircraft sized pistols for the thunderous thrill of it and answer questions by rural readers and farm listeners when confronted on why I never challenge either gun laws or gun nuts in my column and speeches.

The answer is simple: I have no deep convictions on the fractious gun issue other than I favor tough regulation of handguns and want assault rifles limited to military use.

(My assault rifle position, for those of you who suspect I was birthed by Jane Fonda and weaned by Hillary Clinton, is also held by President Bush.)

Outside those two exceptions, whatever society directs legislators to do or not do about long guns, handguns and pop guns is fine by me. I do, however, despise gun advocacy groups who preach fear over fact - gun bans - to sway elections. Their standard tactic is sweeping incrementalism: ďIf they ban assault rifles today, theyíll ban BB guns tomorrow.Ē

Thatís unsupportable hogwash. Forty years of gun legislation hasnít restrained one childís BB trigger finger or banned one true sporting gun.

Nor will the next 40 because most of society - you, me and our wallets - believe legal gun ownership is as American as owning pets or cars.

Sure, tougher regulations may come. But sporting guns, like sporting dogs and sports utility vehicles, will not be banned regardless of how many of our cold, dead fingers go to eternity clutching cold, dead Golden Retrievers, rusting SUVs or pearl-handled .44s.

Even the 3-million-member National Rifle Association (NRA), the lobbying juggernaut with $20 million to pour into the heated 2006 election, has stopped preaching such baseless fear to Congress. According to the Oct. 12 Wall Street Journal, the NRA, a Red State vote-delivering machine, ďis expecting to endorse as many as 60 Democrats in House and Senate electionsĒ this year, nearly triple the number a decade ago.

The move has two parts. First, the NRA, like everyone, guesses the Democrats could win either or both the Senate and the House and itís good politics to back a perceived winner.

Second, the NRA, like other hook and bullet groups, has made inroads in teaching gun-doubting Dems about conservation and guns.

Even Dem bashers like tax-hating Grover Norquist, a NRA board member, know it.

ďThey (the NRA) understand that the first time they oppose a Democrat who has been supportive of the gun issue, they lose that D vote,Ē Norquist told the Journal.

Rural gun toters and voters should take heed. When steel-hardened conservatives like Norquist see gun policy as more bipartisan, itís a clear sign Capitol Hillís understanding of gun ownership has matured. Itís also a sign that even Repub-licans know there are far larger caliber issues at stake November 7 than guns.

This farm news was published in the Oct. 25, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.