By JAMES BELL
Despite leaving public office Sunday with his resignation from the Kansas House of Representatives, public life was not quite done with Travis Couture-Lovelady. His move from representative of the 110th District to a state liaison for the National Rifle Association has drawn the ire of a national gun control advocacy group, a flurry of messages to Facebook and calls to the former legislator’s cellphone.
The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, a Washington-based group, posted a message asking people to contact Couture-Lovelady to provide feedback on his change in position Tuesday.
“Leading supporter of idiotic permit-less carry law in Kansas, state Rep. Travis Couture-Lovelady, resigns to accept a job as a lobbyist with the National Rifle Association. Before he walks out the door, contact him… and tell him what you think of him. You can also leave him a comment,” the post said.
Originally the post listed Couture-Lovelady’s capital office phone number, but was later changed to his personal cellphone after it was realized he would not receive messages from the capital office.
Both numbers were listed on the Kansas Legislature information page.
Following the post, Couture-Lovelady received calls and messages – many being “very nasty,” he said.
“Smart move to hitch a ride with the gun lobby, after setting up Kansas to rival DC as the nation’s shooting gallery. Suggest wearing a (bulletproof) vest to protect yourself from the environment you helped create. Won’t protect your head but that doesn’t seem to work anyway,” one message said.
Another simply called Couture-Lovelady an a*****e, something the caller, Tim Larson, defended as reasonable.
“Without a doubt,” he said in response to calling and leaving his message as an effective way to effect change.
“They’re being able to hide their behavior is what allows it to continue,” Larson said. “Anybody that quits a job to go work for the NRA right now has some serious motive issues.”
Despite Larson’s message to Couture-Lovelady, his message, like many others, came from outside Kansas and he had no knowledge of him personally or his legislative history prior to the Coalition posting his information and asking for comments. But he stood by his decision to make the call.
“Just the fact that he would quit a job that he was elected to, halfway through his term makes it even worse, but to give up on a job he was elected to, whether the money is better or not, it just says something as to how to his values and his lack thereof,” Larson said. “The NRA is one of the major problems in this country right now, they are involved in all kinds of divisive politics and they shouldn’t be.”
With the comments pouring into Facebook through the day Tuesday in response to the Coalition’s post, it might be easy to assume Couture-Lovelady left office in negative spirits, but local support shows a different picture as posts of support poured onto his Facebook page following the announcement of taking the new position.
“Most people locally have been very supportive. The calls to my cellphone and emails have been from out of state,” Couture-Lovelady said.
He received dozens of messages supporting his move, many from local residents who have known or worked with him during his time in the Legislature.
“I didn’t expect it to this level. I have been used to it to a certain extent at various times, but nothing went this far. Kansans are generally more polite in their advocacy methods. I am not sure what they hope to gain from this now other than giving their people something to do,” he said.
Couture-Lovelady also defended his move as a way for him to extend his role in expanding gun ownership rights, something that has been the spearhead of his legislative career.
“Gun rights have always been a passion of mine long before I started in politics,” he said “The opportunity to be able to make a difference on this particular issue on a bigger scale was too good to pass up.”
The Coalition, however, saw this move as one of personal gain for the former legislator.
“This is a textbook case of a lack of virtue in public service, so, yes, I feel this strategy is effective, it is appropriate and if we don’t do it, we will never save lives in this country,” said Ladd Everitt, director of communications for the Coalition. “We have given to many of these soulless politicians like Travis a free pass over the years.
“Like most people in America today, we’re horrified by the constant gun-related horrors we’re seeing in this country and obviously the timing of this decision by this gentleman struck a clear cord with people because of what we just observed in Colorado Springs,” he said.
The recent action by the Coalition was based solely on the change in jobs, as they had not been following Couture-Lovelady before, despite being a leader of open gun rights in Kansas.
“He was a guy I had never even heard of,” Everitt said. “This is the first news associated with him that had stuck out to me.”
Despite that, the Coaltion felt their action was appropriate.
“I think one of the reasons that we’re at this point in history, where we have a gun death rate astronomically higher than other free societies, is because guys like this haven’t gotten enough phone calls and emails over the years,” Everitt said. “I am delighted that people are sharing their feedback with him. I have no regrets.
“I think the best way to hold them accountable is to apply political pressure to them. A guy like Travis is not a principled man. This is a guy that clearly is in politics to enrich his own personal fortunes,” he added. “The best way to affect a guy like that is to apply political pressure to them, typically a guy like this is a coward and is going to move away from pressure.”
He also cited years of secretive politicking by the NRA and related legislators as being a primary reason for their success in the political arena passing legislation people do not support, including permit-less concealed carry in Kansas.
“Our side has suffered for four decades because the other side is the side that has made these calls,” he said. “Like 80 percent of Kansas disagreed with that bill…said they did not want permit-less carry. He is not representing Kansas.
“As for us describing this guy as corrupt as he is, if the shoe fits, put it on. This is clearly a breach of ethics, it is clearly a conflict of interest, if he didn’t want the feedback he should have been a good public servant,” Everitt said.