Nevada Outdoor Democratic Caucus

An affiliate of the Nevada State Democratic Party


NODC in the NEWS

Thursday, January 15, 2004
Copyright Las Vegas Mercury

Guns 'n' Democrats

Being a Democrat doesn't necessarily mean you're anti-gun

By Heidi Walters

John J. Cahill sits inside a Starbucks in Henderson, sipping his coffee. He's a big man, and his old-fashioned cowboy gear--tooled, studded leather wrapped around his legs and wrists, and a vest, overcoat, hat and scarf--makes him seem even bigger, like some old-timey sheriff come to clean up the, er, strip mall. The badge on his left shoulder says "Devil John"--a moniker of his Single Action Shooting Society games. But his guns are outside in his pickup. Can't be packing those things around in public, scaring people.

Cahill is president of the newly formed Nevada Outdoor Democratic Caucus, which was officially certified by the Nevada Democratic Party in early December. He's a devout Democrat. And he's a devout gun lover--the cowboy outfit is part of his SASS hobby. He's also been a student twice out at Frontsight (a weapons training site near Pahrump). And he teaches gun safety classes.

Cahill, 58, grew up in a family of hunters and trapshooters who also were solid union and solid Democrats. He, too, joined a union. "When I turned 21, I registered Democrat," he says. "I said, 'I guess I'm a Democrat.' And [my parents] said, 'Yeah, you're working, so you're a Democrat.' I consider being a Democrat similar to being Catholic [which he is]. It's just what you are."

But darned if he wasn't getting tired of all Democrats being pegged as anti-gun. Which is why he wanted the new caucus. "For me, it started out as a frustration with Republicans always talking about Democrats being anti-gun," he says. "Well, I know I'm a Democrat and I know I'm not anti-gun. I like shooting."

The new caucus' mission is to give a voice to "outdoor enthusiasts of hunting, fishing, off-highway vehicles and the conservation of wildlife and public lands,' he says. Key to Cahill is the stance on guns.

"You can't get to the right of me on guns," he says. "We're here to talk about Nevada values." He cites the section of the Nevada Constitution that says we can own guns for a lawful purpose. Rebecca Lambe, executive director of the state Democratic Party, agreed with him and wrote, in a news release following the caucus' acceptance, "A citizen's right to lawfully own firearms and enjoy our state's outdoor recreation is a part of Nevada's heritage that our party fully respects and supports." In fact, there wasn't any opposition from other Nevada Democrats.

Cahill admits that if this weren't an important election year for Democrats, his caucus might not be as well-received. Democrats, regardless of their individual issues, are all banking on Harry. "Getting Harry Reid re-elected is, and will be, an essential role in our caucus," says Cahill. "Because he is the most important man in America for guns." Reid is co-sponsor of a bill that would prevent lawsuits against manufacturers of legal weapons when they're misused.

It's a familiar tune nationwide, actually: Democrats leaning in to the center more to assure their rural counterparts that they're not actually anti-gun, just for better gun safety. (Centrist Democrats warn that the term "gun control" must be ditched if the gun-loving Democrats are to feel included.) Many of the Democratic presidential candidates are flashing their gun cred, too. Although, as a December Mother Jones article titled "Shotgun Wedding" noted, this could backfire: "Some, particularly left-leaning Democrats, will dismiss this as another sign that Democrats are selling out their core principles in exchange for 'electability.'"

In Nevada, left-leaning Democrats are hardly an issue. It isn't a very far lean to gather in the gun owners. Still, Cahill saw a need to make a point of it.

"There were statewide candidates who, if they felt they wouldn't be accepted by the rurals, they would write 'em off and focus on Washoe and Clark County," he says. "But those rural people should get a chance. Gun-owning union members was the category we were losing to the Republicans." Even so, the first several dozen to express interest in joining the new caucus came from the more urban Washoe County, says Cahill. "Some people think I'm going to have the largest membership for a caucus. We're also doing something no one else has done. We've been given an allowance to allow in persons not registered as Democrats." Gun shops might join, for instance, or an outdoor club, regardless of their members' party affiliations, simply because they support the issue. "I'll take a Republican's 50 bucks," says Cahill.

But there will be party division, at least nationwide. The Federal Violent Crime Control Act of 1994, for example, may cause a rift. That act banned the manufacture and import of "assault weapons." It expires this year, and most Democrats seem in favor of extending the ban. But Democrats like Cahill say such thinking is flawed. "I'm against the assault weapon ban because it's out of focus," he says. "You have to focus on the offender. When the bullet leaves the barrel, it doesn't know what the gun looks like. When you talk about banning assault weapons, what you're saying is you want criminals to use sport weapons instead."

Cahill says a deer rifle can be more deadly than a semiautomatic assault weapon. And the definition of an assault weapon is in itself a problem. Out in the desert, he lifts one of his old guns and says, "Really, this antique is as dangerous as an assault weapon if I want to make it be." He says gun laws already in place should be enforced better, gun safety should be emphasized, and there should be instant background checks at gun shows. More attention to gun safety probably won't be hard to push in this state, since last week the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence gave Nevada's gun control laws a D.

Just back off the assault weapon ban, says Cahill, because it's too all-encompassing. Why, it includes antiques, says Cahill, because the semiautomatic action goes back to 1903.

"I was named after my grandfather, John Joseph Cahill," he says. "In 1951, when my grandfather died, he was hunting in the field, he was with his dog, and he died--he had a heart attack. I got that gun. It's a Model 11 Remington, a semiautomatic shotgun. And every time people talk about banning semiautomatics [assault weapons], they're talking about my grandfather's gun."

Copyright Las Vegas Mercury, 2001 - 2003
Stephens Media Group




Monday, October 25, 2004
Copyright Las Vegas Review-Journal

Pro-gun Democrats urge party to be sensitive to issue

Rural Nevadans believe they could tilt presidential race


John Cahill, an avid gun collector, is shown wearing 1866-era Western wear and aiming a rifle in an undated photo in Nevada. Cahill has raised concerns about the way the Democratic Party is ignoring the effect tens of thousands of Nevada gun owners could have on the 2004 election.


TONOPAH -- John Cahill stood up at a meeting of state Democratic leaders in the small rural town of Tonopah a year ago to complain his party was ignoring the effect tens of thousands of Nevada gun owners could have on the 2004 election.

"When is somebody going to do something about Democrats and guns?" asked Cahill, 58, a lifelong party member and former parole officer who teaches gun safety.

Cahill's rant about the bad rap the party gets for being "anti-gun" hit home with many at that meeting of the Democratic State Central Committee.

Tonopah is in the high desert halfway between Democrat-dominated Las Vegas to the south and Republican-leaning Reno in the north.

Since then, the following has occurred:

Cahill established the Nevada Outdoor Democratic Caucus to organize the party's elected officials who are pro-gun rights and try to keep Democratic hunters in the fold.

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., has received $4,500 in contributions from the National Rifle Association's political arm in his bid for re-election to a fourth term against Republican Richard Ziser.

The AFL-CIO has launched a direct mail and telephone campaign to reassure union members in Nevada that Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry is a hunter who will not take away their guns.

"In this election, my gun is safe. But my job isn't," said an AFL-CIO mailer that started arriving in mailboxes a week ago. "Both John Kerry and George W. Bush are gun owners and sportsmen."

"Your Second Amendment rights will not be in jeopardy when we elect John Kerry president," said a tape-recorded telephone message. "But your job and your union will be in jeopardy if we let George Bush have four more years in the White House."

The efforts are the latest sign that Nevada's outdoor enthusiasts, many cut from the mold of "Reagan Democrats," could help determine whether the battleground state sticks with President Bush as it did in 2000 or swings back Democratic as it did the two presidential elections before.

"I've done some research in this area, and it is one issue that can really swing Democrats. Pro-gun Democrats are always ready to jump ship," said Ted Jelen, chief of the political science department at University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

"It is one of the lessons of the Gore campaign (in 2000), that there is kind of a gun Democratic vote that really cares about that issue," he said.

That view was echoed in interviews with veteran candidates, strategists and analysts across Nevada, where registration is divided nearly evenly between the two major parties.

"It is an issue that has traction with a group of people who have very, very strong feelings about gun rights," said Richard Bryan, former Democratic governor of Nevada and two-term U.S. senator.

Aside from national security, Republican Rep. Jim Gibbons is hard-pressed to name a more pervasive issue in his largely rural district covering most of Nevada outside Las Vegas.

"It is an enormously important issue for the West. It is absolutely a baseline issue for Nevada voters," Gibbons said.

The NRA claimed credit for President Bush's victory over Democrat Al Gore four years ago.

"You are why Al Gore isn't in the White House," NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre told more than 4,500 delegates at the group's annual meeting in Reno in April 2002.

Bob McGowan, a longtime Democrat and Washoe County assessor, tells anyone who will listen there are planks in both state party platforms supporting the Second Amendment's right to bear arms.

Nevertheless, Republicans "have been very successful in beating us up on that because of the perception, and the perception means a lot," McGowan said.

Though Kerry is a gun owner, he supports requiring background checks at gun shows and favored extending the recently expired ban on assault-style weapons.

Eric Herzik, a political science professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, is not convinced Kerry's effort to appeal to gun owners will work in Nevada.

"Maybe it's an attempt by Democrats to court the rural vote, which looks like will go overwhelmingly to Bush," Herzik said about the Democratic push.

Herzik warns the "gun issue cuts both ways."

"For every vote that John Kerry may be courting with a gun owner, he's at risk of alienating his more liberal base, which probably includes a lot of people who are both anti-gun and anti-hunting," he said.



Sunday, April 18, 2004
Copyright Las Vegas Review-Journal

Gun issue takes center stage


Delegates might not have been packing heat at the Democratic State Convention at the Riviera on Saturday, but the gun issue appeared front and center thanks to the first-ever appearance by the National Rifle Association.

Carolyn Herbertson, state liaison for the NRA, said the organization felt they had been "warmly welcomed."

"Nevada is a very friendly Second Amendment state," she said.

John Cahill, president of the Nevada Outdoor Democratic Caucus, said Democrats have pushed away moderate and conservative party members in some elections on gun issues.

"They'd say, 'I'm not voting for someone who's going to take my guns away.' "

Aaron Johnson-Hall came to the NRA booth with a question about Michael Moore's Oscar-winning film, "Bowling for Columbine," and its depiction of former NRA President Charlton Heston.

A moment later, he got into a shouting match with the NRA's Brian Shannon.

After the brief set-to, Johnson-Hall said the NRA's inclusion in the state convention was "a slap in the face for real Democrats."

"There's no reason for Charlton Heston to go to Columbine after the killings, and you don't need an AK-47 to hunt a deer," said Johnson-Hall, holding his 5-month-old daughter, Jenna, who was bedecked in red, white and blue and a "Kerry For President" button.

"This is a Republican organization trying to pretend it's bipartisan," said Johnson-Hall, who with his wife, Christine, were the lone vocal critics of the NRA's presence Saturday.

Cahill said Nevada has 30,000 NRA members, and he believes about one-third are Democrats.

"Don't 10,000 people deserve a voice in this?" he asked, wearing his cowboy shooter's outfit, complete with leather knee and elbow chaps and a giant hat.

Cahill's caucus had $60,000 worth of training certificates to Front Sight Resort in Pahrump, and throughout the day rural Democrats showed intense interest in his booth.

John Hunt, who made an unsuccessful bid for attorney general in 2002, said he was thrilled to see movement toward the middle on gun issues in both the county and state platform.

"It used to just be the people on the left taking over," Hunt said. "Now there are things to be proud of."






Nevada Appeal 

NRA comes to the Democratic convention

Geoff Dornan
April 18, 2004

Not only are there more people at the democratic state convention in Las Vegas this year than in 2002, there are some faces many wouldn't expect to see.

Specifically, the National Rifle Association.

"It's the first time we've been to a Nevada Democratic Convention," said state and local affairs liaison Carolyn Herbertson.

She said they were invited by John Cahill, who earlier this year founded the Nevada Outdoor Democrats.

"There are a lot of Democrats out there, good NRA members, who are very disappointed because of the high profile Democrats who are anti-gun," said Cahill.

He said there are also too many people who see the NRA as allied with the Republican Party and those issues helped convince him to form the outdoor Democrats and push to invite NRA to attend the state convention this weekend.

Herbertson and NRA regional spokesman Jason Osborn said they have been "extremely well" received by delegates to the convention.

"There is a misconception that we're solely beholding to the Republican Party," said Osborn. "That's not true. We support Democrats at the national and state levels including (Senator) Harry Reid and Speaker (Richard) Perkins."

"I would say Nevada is probably pretty evenly split between the parties," said Herbertson.

Reid, D-Nev., said there are many Democrats in the state who are sportsmen, gun collectors and NRA supporters.

Osborn said the fact this is NRA's first visit to the Nevada Democratic convention, "is not so much we were purposely not invited, it's that people didn't think of us."

"The NRA has been a big player in Nevada politics," he said.

He said there are large numbers of sportsmen and gun enthusiasts from hunters and target shooters to police.

He said the convention is a "great opportunity to educate the candidates."

Cahill said he hopes having NRA attend the convention will broaden the NRA's view of Democratic candidates and educate more of those candidates about the NRA.

He said the same is true of the Nevada Outdoor Democrats.

"We're all about using the outdoors -- access to public lands, getting along with folks," he said. "We think we can enjoy it and protect it."