The Second Amendment enjoys deep and wide support in Wyoming.
But only the state's only congresswoman, Republican Rep. Barbara Cubin, enjoys the endorsement of the National Rifle Association.
"You've got to stand by the people that stand by you," NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said at a fund-raising event for Cubin at the Holiday Inn on Friday evening.
"Barbara Cubin has stood by us, stood by NRA, and gun owners and hunters time and time again with her votes in Washington, D.C., and that's why we're urging with all of NRA members, and gun owners and hunters that they go to the polls and re-elect her," LaPierre said.
He visited Casper on Friday evening to formally announce the organization's blessing of Cubin, who was elected to the NRA board of directors in 2000 and re-elected for a second three-year term in 2003.
She faces four Republican opponents in the Aug. 17 primary: Sen. Cale Case of Lander, Cheyenne lawyer Bruce Asay, Jim Altebaumer of Casper, and Marvin "Trip" Applequist of Farson.
None of those opponents has endorsed gun control.
One of her opponents, state Sen. Cale Case of Lander, has proclaimed his support for gun rights, too.
In July, the Wyoming State Shooting Association Political Action Committee voted to endorse Case as its choice in the Republican primary.
According to a letter to the Casper Star-Tribune by WSSA PAC Vice President Beverly Spungin, the association chose Case because he helped lower the big-game hunting age to 12, and he promoted a bill so Wyoming residents with misdemeanor domestic violence records have a legal mechanism to restore their gun rights.
Cubin said that the WSSA has about 25 members, and they are Case's friends.
On the other hand, the NRA is a large organization and its endorsement is a boost to any campaign, she said.
Some of the approximately 100 people attending the event came from Sheridan and other parts of the state, and NRA membership crosses all social levels, Cubin said.
While she couldn't remember offhand any pro-Second Amendment bills she promoted in Congress, her spokesman Jim Milczewski said that Cubin cosponsored a bill that stated gun manufacturers can't be sued for their products being used in crimes, and that she would resist the reauthorization of the assault weapons ban.
Cubin, LaPierre said, has proven her support for the Second Amendment.
While other candidates may receive the same kind of A+ rating from the NRA or have a voting record in their state's Legislature, that isn't enough to garner an endorsement, he said.
"We've had a lot of experience in Washington dealing with people who've been sent to Washington from states around the country," LaPierre said.
"They can get kicked around pretty good by the national media, by ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, The Washington Post and that; and a lot of them, they get there and they sell out to folks back home. They say the opposite in their campaigns," he said.
"For that reason, we believe it's very, very important to send the message - our political action committee does - that if you have the guts to stand up for gun owners and hunters, and cast the tough votes to defend the Second Amendment, we send the message loud and clear: 'We're going to be with you at election time.'"
An NRA endorsement is not meant to imply that other nonendorsed candidates are weak on gun rights, LaPierre said.
It means that the representative who is already in Congress deserves continued support, he said. "You don't want to change horses in mid-stream."
Longtime Republican activist Marvin Emrich said that Cubin has a good record on the Second Amendment.
But he remembers the Republican gubernatorial primary in 2002 when former House Speaker Eli Bebout - with a voting record in the Legislature - won the NRA endorsement, and Wheatland lawyer and rancher Ray Hunkins - an NRA member - did not, he said.
"That made Mr. Hunkins pretty mad," Emrich said.
Former NRA member and Casper Realtor Jim Edgeworth attended the fund-raising event because of Cubin's support of his industry, he said.
The Second Amendment support is important, too, he said.
"For me it's cool," Edgeworth said. "People in Wyoming still have the right to carry arms. … For us living in the state, we're all for the NRA."
Reporter Tom Morton can be reached at (307) 266-0592 or at George.Morton@casperstartribune.net.