The one thing you can say about the National Rifle Association is that it doesn't take its losses lightly.

When the House of Representatives voted for the Brady bill (which the NRA opposed), an army of gun lobbyists on Capitol Hill started to let the air out of the tires of every member of Congress who voted for the seven-day waiting period.Charlton Holster was so mad, his trigger finger was shaking.

"We're going to get them at the polls," he told me. "You have to be crazy to double-cross the NRA. We will fight them on the land and on the sea, but mainly in their voting districts, and we will drive them out of office."

Holster threw a rotten cantaloupe at a congressman's windshield.

"Won't it cost a lot to defeat every representative who failed to follow your explicit instructions?"

"We have money, and we're getting lots more. The crazed law-abiding gun owners will provide whatever funds it takes to kill these SOBs."

Two gun lobbyists tried to overturn a taxi carrying a congressman who had led the fight for the Brady bill.

"You're starting early," I said to Holster.

"Wouldn't you if your job depended on it? This is not just a battle to save our weapons - it is a fight for the jobs of every NRA lobbyist. Gun people have to eat, too."

He spotted a liberal congressman walking to the parking lot. "I'm going to dump a pail of dirty water on his Bally shoes," Holster told me.

"You can't get pro-gun legislation if you beat up on everyone who doesn't vote your way," I said.

"He promised to vote with us - and then he sold out to his electorate. Are we supposed to let him get away with it?"

"Don't forget," I reminded Holster, "Brady still has to get through the Senate, and senators are a lot more frightened of the NRA than representatives. Even if the Senate passes the bill, it then has to go to President Bush, and he's still a wimp when it comes to the gun lobby. So you're wasting time letting air out of tires."

Holster started crying. "We worked so hard. We stayed up all night drinking with congressmen who couldn't make up their minds. We took chairmen of committees to Disney World - all expenses paid - but we have nothing to show for it. This isn't the way America should operate."

I patted him on the shoulder. "Despite Brady, people will still be able to buy all the guns they want."

"Maybe," he sniffed, "but the thrill is gone if you have to wait seven days."