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Marco Rubio's gun problem

Before he became House Speaker in 2006, Marco Rubio had a nice "A" rating from the NRA. But when he faces Gov. Charlie Crist in the 2010 Republican U.S. Senate primary, his rating will drop when they post grades/ratings after the spring legislative session of 2010, said NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer.

Blame the guns in the work place parking lot law that ultimately gave gun owners the right to bring their firearms to work place parking lots, provided the weapons were kept safely in vehicles. The Florida Chamber of Commerce successfully blocked the legislation one year and finally agreed to compromise language with the NRA.

Though Rubio ultimately voted for the final bill, Hammer (aka, the most feared person in the Capitol) said the speaker should have done more to help the NRA.

Geeze, dropping the guy's rating for just one issue that he ultimately voted for?

"He voted when the gun bill was brought to the vote, but we know that what goes on behind the scenes is an entirely different story," Hammer said. She said the NRA ratings -- a big deal in the Republican primary -- are based not just on how politicians vote, but on the totality of what they do or appear to do.

"We watch everything: false claims, lips service, what a member tells other people,'' said Hammer adding that, with Rubio "it's not pretty... we take our issue very seriously."

Crist has often been in the NRA's corner. Even when he didn't know he wasn't.

Case in point: Crist's recommended budget for this year. It proposed taking $8 million from a trust fund dedicated to receiving concealed-weapon permit fees to help process CWPs. The Legislature knocked Crist's recommendation down to $6 million. Then the NRA made a stink, so Crist vetoed the trust fund sweep that he ultimately had proposed.

Hammer said that won't be held against Crist because his budget was based on staff recommendations that he wasn't fully aware of when he unveiled the spending plan. Once he learned of the implications of the trust fund sweep, Crist acted accordingly.

Crist did, however, buck the NRA when he chose Justice James Perry for the Florida Supreme Court. The NRA lobbied against him. The NRA also wanted Crist to pick Jim Smith to fill out the rest of U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez's term, but Crist picked his former staff/campaign chief George LeMieux.