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The report begins: "Liberals are frustrated with Barack Obama for not aggressively pushing gun control, but you wouldn't know it from the National Rifle Association's annual meeting. With no clearly preferred Republican candidate among the 70,000 people who descended on the convention center here this weekend, Obama's name came up more than any other."

A man checks out a rifle at the 140th National Rifle Association exhibit in Pittsburgh. (photo: AP)
A man checks out a rifle at the 140th National Rifle Association exhibit in Pittsburgh. (photo: AP)

NRA Takes Aim at Obama's Re-Election

By James Hohmann, Politico

01 May 11


iberals are frustrated with Barack Obama for not aggressively pushing gun control, but you wouldn't know it from the National Rifle Association's annual meeting.

With no clearly preferred Republican candidate among the 70,000 people who descended on the convention center here this weekend, Obama's name came up more than any other.

Leaders of the powerful gun lobby talked as if the president had declared an all-out war on the Second Amendment. The dire rhetoric is intended to galvanize activists going into the 2012 election season, despite huge legislative gains last November and significant progress advancing their agenda at the state level.

"In Barack Obama, we have a president who is more opposed to gun ownership than any in our history and who still believes he'll prevail," said conservative activist David Keene, the NRA's incoming president. "Make no mistake about it: Barack Obama, his minions in the Justice Department, his allies in the Congress, and his friends in the media would take our guns if they could and they will if they can."

The NRA's renewed anti-Obama focus resonates because many conservatives aren't enamored with anyone running.

"It's a potent message," said Frank Tenerovich, a 71-year-old retiree who lives in the Pittsburgh suburbs. "He's anti-gun enough that he could take us down the tube. He's anti a lot of things that I'm for, but that's the one that scares me the most."

The NRA has nearly 4 million members, and a large opening exists for the candidate who can win over someone like Tenerovich. He lamented the weakness of all the Republican candidates as he roamed with his grandson around the cavernous convention center exhibit hall to check out the booths of gun makers.

Obama resisted calls for stricter gun laws after the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) in January, ignoring a push from his left to broach the issue in his Tucson memorial speech or during the State of the Union. More than two months after the shooting, he wrote an op-ed calling for a "new discussion" about keeping guns out of the hands of criminals (

White House officials (especially veterans of the Clinton administration) remember the lessons of 1994, when Democrats lost the House after pushing an assault weapons ban, and 2000, when Al Gore narrowly lost swing states with high rates of gun ownership.

A fear of the wrath of gun activists explains Obama's effort to blur his differences with John McCain on the issue in 2008, why he signed bills in 2009 that allowed visitors to carry guns into national parks and on board Amtrak trains and why he bent over backward in his March opinion piece to stress that he believes the Second Amendment "guarantees an individual right to bear arms."

NRA leaders tell gun owners to pay attention to the president's deeds, not his rhetoric. He may not be overtly hostile, they acknowledge when pressed, but he's definitely anti-gun. They point to his record in the Illinois state senate, where he backed bans on handguns and semi-automatic weapons. They criticize the two justices he appointed to the Supreme Court: Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.

Keene accused the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) of harassing gun dealers and suggested that Obama supports a coming United Nations treaty that would "weaken or gut" gun rights.

Wayne LaPierre, the NRA's longtime CEO, fussed about a botched ATF sting operation that allowed American guns to fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels, an episode he used Saturday to call for the resignation of Attorney General Eric Holder.

Speakers referred to those "who he's surrounded himself with," including conservative bogeywomen Hillary Clinton and Janet Napolitano.

NRA executives have no plans to back a candidate before the nominee is determined. They see a competitive GOP nomination process as beneficial to the extent that it results in helpful one-upmanship, with candidates trying to outdo each other's on-the-record promises.

"One of the great things that's going to happen in this process is that candidates are going to sort themselves out," said Glen Caroline, director of the grassroots division in the NRA's political arm. "Many gun owners are going to have preferences throughout the way and are going to be working and volunteering for and supporting different candidates, which is fine because the larger [the] presence we as a community have in any campaign, we can raise issues of awareness on the Second Amendment, we can get commitments from candidates, all with the understanding that it's healthy to go through a nominating process."

Caroline made the comments during a two-hour seminar for 60 activists Saturday afternoon. The group swapped war stories and traded lessons learned from the last campaign about mobilizing volunteers to turn out gun owners in swing states like New Hampshire.

The NRA saw huge legislative gains in those 2010 midterms. They picked up an additional 26 allies in the House and seven in the Senate.

This includes Democrats: In his speech at the convention here, for example, West Virginia freshman Sen. Joe Manchin touted his opposition to Obama's "anti-gun" nominee to lead the ATF.

With a Republican House and essentially a pro-gun working majority in the Senate, Obama couldn't pursue legislative gun control even if he tried.

Activists, though, legitimately see gains over the last decade as fragile.

Chris Cox, the executive director of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, noted that the Supreme Court decided the landmark District of Columbia vs. Heller case by a vote of 5 to 4.

"What if he appoints just one more anti-gun justice to the US Supreme Court and we go from one-vote victories to one-vote defeats for generations to come?" he asked thousands of receptive gun owners. "My friends, praying for the health of five Supreme Court justices is not a strategy you want to stake your freedom on."

Cox said there's no budget for 2012 political spending yet, and that it will depend on how much they can raise from members. He pointed to the 2000 election as a point of comparison - he said the NRA spent about $40 million.

Many Republicans were lukewarm about John McCain's nomination in 2008. The Arizona senator championed anti-gun causes during his maverick phase, and the NRA gave him a lifetime C+ rating in 2004.

This year, almost all the serious top-tier candidates have solid ratings from the group. Cox said it's easier to look at the records of elected officials than those without experience in public office. He had kind words about the governorships of Indiana's Mitch Daniels, Arkansas' Mike Huckabee and Minnesota's Tim Pawlenty.

One possible exception is Mitt Romney, who signaled support for the assault rifle ban and the Brady gun control measure during his 1994 run for Senate.

Romney recorded a video greeting that played at an event Friday. Unlike that of Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who also sent a recorded video message, his two-minute spiel was not interrupted by applause or cheers.

James Wallace, the executive director of the Gun Owner's Action League in Massachusetts, complains about Romney's actions during his time as governor. In 2003, for example, he raided the Inland Fish and Game Fund to balance the budget.

During an interview, Wallace wouldn't rule out backing Romney later in the cycle, but he said he's looking for "somebody new and fresh" who "means what they say."

"Gun owners have a long memory," he said. "Our people are just frustrated that there's not someone out there solid, consistently giving the message we want to hear."

Of those who traveled to Pittsburgh this weekend, Huckabee received the most positive response. He described himself as a proud gun-clinger, attacking Obama's statement at a campaign fundraiser three years ago that people cling to guns and religion because they're bitter. But Huckabee running remains an open question, and it might be too late for him to put together a winning team.

Sarah Palin was the star of last year's annual meeting in Charlotte, where she talked about her life membership in the NRA and once having a baby shower at a gun range. This year, the former Alaska governor was nowhere to be found. She wasn't mentioned in speeches and didn't even send a video greeting, as many less-significant political figures did. Many gun owners still like her, but most have written her off and few think she could win.

In his speech at the meeting, Newt Gingrich suggested he'd sign an executive order on his first day as president to change the way the Justice Department prosecutes gun crimes and that he would instruct the State Department not to give in on gun issues at the United Nations or abroad.

"They're now developing a stealth strategy in which they combine anti-gun judges with anti-gun treaties," he warned of the Obama administration. "They will then try to strip us of our rights by judicial fiat."

Many activists have decided to take a wait-and-see approach. In interviews, several said that they'll be leery of candidates who simply make bombastic promises.

"I can't even pick a candidate that I think is viable yet," said Sean Maloney, an election volunteer coordinator for the NRA in Ohio and a practicing criminal defense attorney. "Everybody's going to be ‘pro-gun.' Everyone wants to court the vote. … So you've got to watch out for that." your social media marketing partner


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+32 # reiverpacific 2011-05-01 21:46
The second amendment to the constitution reads "A WELL REGULATED MILITIA, being necessary to the security of a free State, the rights of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed." This was written before there was a standing army in the young and developing country and I know that it is open to interpretation (as it has been ad nauseum for many, many decades) as written but I'm damn sure that the framers didn't anticipate the military-indust rial complex nor did they mean that "every wild-eyed yahoo who can go to Walmart and get a way-too-powerfu l weapon off the shelf with little or no background check, shall be entitled to do so!". Does the NRA want the country to descend into a series of locally-selecte d militias -THEY ARE CALLED "WAR-LORDS" IN OTHER NATIONS WE TRY TO IMPOSE OUR "DEMOCRATIC" VALUES UPON, to act like Mafia-type overseers of our collective -or selective well-being? -And then consider that the military-indust rial-prison complex is so overwhelmingly powerful and intrusive, that perhaps -just perhaps- many people feel that they have to have a weapon at their disposal, lest they inadvertently speak their truth to power and become another disappeared or political prisoner? It's a complex matter and a good example of "evil begetting evil" and potential chaos brought about by lack of education and worldly knowledge of the submerged many.
+40 # Wunkman 2011-05-01 22:39
I'm a Liberal with a Concealed Carry Permit. I uphold the Second Amendment but do not belong to the NRA or any other organization that buys off politicians, which is the major reason our country is screwed up. If you want to fix what's wrong, start by getting rid of ALL lobbyists and tax EVERYONE. This Country was founded by Liberals who did not have their noses up the Kings butt, but were rich people who lost their fortunes for Freedom and Principles and were never repaid. Today, the rich don't think THEY should support anything. Wake up America. The Freedom Cry was,"No taxation without representation" , not "No taxation for those who can afford to buy off Politicians."
+12 # SoCal Johnny 2011-05-01 23:17
Teabaggers, Republicans and FoxNews,
If you are not part of the solution... you are part of the problem...
You people offer Nothing for this Country...
Lies, hate and slander...
Nerves of steel....Obama planing for the last 10 months to take out Bin Laden while you voice your support for Trump , a mental midget if there ever was one.
I am going to be so glad to see you losers thrown on the ash heap of history where you belong...
+1 # Yenbat 2011-05-02 10:38
It would appear that Obama will not need the $1 billion he's planning to raise to be re-elected
+20 # Dave W. 2011-05-02 00:37
Well, we've got Sarah Palin who thinks its "sport" to shoot wolves from a helicopter and "Minister Mike Huckabee" who recently advocated converting ALL Americans to Christianity at gunpoint. The day the first shot was fired from a gun into the body of another human being was the last day man had a chance at creating the utopia he'd been blessed with. We were, centuries ago, before the gun, and remain, a primitive species whose instinct for blood and destruction has clearly not abated. Target shooting aside, guns were designed with one specific purpose. To kill. Mankind ready, and often quite kill. Imagine for a moment that an alien entity came and removed EVERY gun from the face of the earth. Large numbers of people, including far too many Americans, would be in a state of panic. Courage is NOT found in the squeezing of a trigger but in the intelligence and compassion necessary to figure out how not to. The NRA is a terrorist organization. From America's "cold,dead hands" to the gun manufacturers avaricious ones. The Gun...its certainly made the world a better place hasn't it. If the dead could speak, both human and animal, they might tell a different story. So bear your arms proudly as we take yet another step towards oblivion.
+3 # billy bob 2011-05-02 01:18
I wonder how the NRA will take the news of bin laden's death.
+12 # Ralph Averill 2011-05-02 03:11
Now that Bin Laden is killed on Obama's watch, as a direct result of his orders, the NRA, and every other single-issue right-wing collection of nuts, better get used to the re-election of Barack Obama to a second term.
+18 # GravityWave 2011-05-02 06:12
I, too, am a liberal who has never seen the need for a high powered scope or a rig to allow me to site comfortably in a tree to shoot an unsuspecting forest dweller as it walks beneath me. Gentlemen huntsmen could use a lot more sportsmanship to begin with. And no one needs an automatic weapon to go deer hunting.

No one with any sense of history would not want to see the 2nd Amendment repealed. It protects us and it is an honored tradition to be an accomplished gun owner and handler.

It is also unthinkable that criminals and the mentally ill are granted the same gun ownership as a responsible citizen gun owner.

The NRA is a scam. I searched President Obama’s remarks regarding gun control and found that nothing he has ever said can be construed to mean that he intends to repeal the 2nd Amendment. Instead he has only called for thoughtful reflection, which in the case of our statistics of gun shot deaths, should be everyone's one goal.

Read this article and then reread our President's speech at the memorial for the victims of the events that took place in January in Arizona. Then compare his remarks to the crude, pandering, lying, incendiary, slanderous remarks of the NRA anointed. Many people live well on the donations of gullible people who think the NRA actually stands for something more than the 2nd Amendment to our Constitution.
0 # GTrout 2011-05-03 23:49
Much agreed. I stopped hunting, to my dad's dismay, when I was around 11 0r 12. When he asked why, I just shrugged and said it didn't seem fair unless the squirrels could shoot back.
-2 # rm 2011-05-02 06:18
I'm a liberal and I'm definitely not frustrated with Obama for his lack of interest in gun control. I don't care about gun control. It is too late. There are 300 million guns in the US. The cat is out of the bag, so let's just forget about it. There are more important things to worry about.

I was an Obama supporter but now I'm a strong opponent mainly because of his continuing war policies. He's transformed the Bush/Cheney imperial project into a more covert and proxy-war campaign. But that is just as bad. The US needs to stop its regime changes all over the world. Obama is running his version of Murder, Inc., thinking that he can simply bomb any nation he wants to. His illegal and immoral bombing and invasion of Libya is just horrific. I hope he loses and I will work as hard as I can against him.
+10 # KittatinyHawk 2011-05-02 08:51
Organizations are only as good as their leadership. NRA defends itself when children kill children, when adults kill children, when adults kill adults.
Second Amendment needs no 'Gun Mentality' to uphold it. It is our Right to bear arms. NRA allows anyone to have a gone, promotes guns sales without waiting periods. Montana & Western States, people have 24 guns for what purpose. They obviously have 26 arms, 2 for reloading.
Paranoia is Western Lifestyle.Too much testing out there.
Children go into service and believe it is alright to torture and kill. I think America should organize its priorities, killing not a primary. Children find parents guns and then to get even take them to school. Or its show and tell in hood.
Children are dying because people havenot a clue of how to protect family from their own craving of Power.
I used to hunt not from Helicopters, not by poisoning caves or dens. I gave up bullets for pictures. I know too many people own guns for some need?, but in the end that weapon is always ending up in assailants hands, used on us. If someone is crazy enough to pull a gun or weapon on you, you normally do not have response time to get your own gun out. By telling people you have a gun, which is not the smartest thing to admit, you have need for power. Normally that backfires.
+8 # KittatinyHawk 2011-05-02 08:56
By the Way see who is backed by NRA, See who votes for what you and America actually needs.
Funny how that Mentality to Back NRA is not used to Help America find Jobs, have good Healthcare, give us cost of living increases
Mentality of who are promoting NRA Kill Wolves, Buffalo, promote Poisonous corporate Ranchers and Corporations like Koch Bros, Monsanto, GE. None of these
care about you or your job.just taking your money. The Government Officials they donate to or lobby are not the ones who have We the People in their thoughts or Actions.

Second Amendment can Stand on its own. NRA only uses it for their own Greed
0 # in deo veritas 2011-05-04 11:50
Which is why I will NOT renew my membership in the NRA. The benefits it offers members (credit cards, etc) are no compensation for the harm it does by supporting cendidates who are the lowest form of life. I will use the money I save by donating it to environmental causes and I urge others to do the same.
+12 # aecullin 2011-05-02 10:28
Membership in the NRA = 4 million. Population of the United States = 333 million or slightly more. Therefore the NRA represents a little over 1% of "We the people". What do the other 98% of "we the people" think? The leadership of the NRA should be reminded of this fact.

Furthermore, at the time the 2nd amendment was written there was no such thing as a fully automatic weapon. The long gun of the day was a muzzle loader. The population of the USA was predominately involved in agriculture. It is not an agricultural society today. Therefore, why does any law abiding citizen require an AK47? Yet the NRA champions the right of of the ordinary urban dwelling citizen to own an AK47, or any other fully automatic weapon. In the wrong hands these become "weapons of mass destruction."

I sincerely believe the NRA is convoluting the meaning and intent of the 2nd amendment.

When will sanity prevail?
0 # in deo veritas 2011-05-04 11:52
Likely sanity will prevail when there is no life left on this planet. That seems to be the goal of the lunatics and groups being mentioned.
+9 # 2011-05-02 10:29
Someone needs to start a lobby (perhaps it already exists)represen ting all of the people who have suffered as a result of gun crime. NRA simply should be banned from spending that kind of money
on furthering its own interests. Why should government pander to this group?
Is this not corruption?
Anyone facilitating gun crime from the supplier to the one who pulls the trigger is guilty.
+8 # James Klimaski 2011-05-02 11:24
In States like Virginia it is OK to bring a gun into bars , restaurants, churches, and soon hospitals as a matter of right. Next these 2nd Amendment types will demand the right to bring a gun into your house whether you like it or not. I'm just waiting for the states to say it is acceptable to shoot off loaded guns in celebration and exempt the shooter from liability if the bullet hits anyone. Due the NRA members deserve the moniker "Gun Nut"? They sure do.
+1 # in deo veritas 2011-05-04 11:58
What is needed is not more laws but more with the guts to enforce them. Other than law enforcement, anyone thinking of bringing a gun into my house without my consent had better change their mind. We cannot expect anyone else to protect us when all over the country, state and local governments are having to cut police, firefighters, teachers and anyone else so the Koches and their ilk don't lose a cent of illegal and immoral profits. The same rules NYC enforces for carrying a gun should be in place everywhere!
+12 # Kayjay 2011-05-02 12:46
The sheer power of the NRA scares me more than any old terrorist group. The NRA isn't going anywhere, cause they control congress.
+3 # billybookworm 2011-05-02 16:47
I left the NRA when it became a subsidiary of the republican party. This meant endorsing some of the most anti 2nd amendment laws in history. Let's start with federalizing loss of 2nd amendment rights for all manner of crimes including misdemeanors. Zero tolerance laws, sentence enhancements for firearms being NEAR a crime scene e.g. pot bust, gun in the gunsafe, mandatory 1 year prison. The NRA is the worst enemy the 2nd amendment has.
0 # in deo veritas 2011-05-04 12:04
Nero tolerance should be expanded to a mandatory capital punishment for any and all violent crimes, including rape, incest, child abuse, etc. There is no moral reason for the taxpayers to keep these vermin locked up as they will not be made into decent human beings. Laws need to be enforced to control them and not render us incapable of self-defense. In cases where parental negligence enables kids to get guns and hurt or kill themselves or others, those responsible should be punished to the limit. "I didn't know it was loaded" is the oldest and lamest excuse in the book.
0 # in deo veritas 2011-05-04 12:06
Shame on the city of Pittsburgh for hosting this travesty. Not the City of Champions any longer because of it.
-2 # in deo veritas 2011-05-04 12:12
Unfortunately, the dumbasses who are so worried about the second amendment going away have obviously never learned anything in school. The ONLY way to repeal a Constitutional amendment is for 3/4 of the states to ratify another amendment that repeals it. That is NOT going to happen! I am not the least bit worried about the government taking my guns unless I break the law and neither should the other responsible, law-abiding gun owners and hunters in America. This should have nothing to do with politics. The NRA obviously disagrees so I will NOT renew my one-year membership.
0 # rm 2011-05-06 08:01
The Republican party is pretty amazing. Organizations like the NRA are really a part of the republican party. The GOP has franchised itself out in interest groups like the NRA, the National Right to Life Coalition, the Moral Majority, FOX News, and many others. Together they have budgets over a billion dollars and they do republican campaigning 12 months a year. That is precisely how the party of the very rich, anti-worker, pro-pollution, anti-schools, and just against everything ordinary people need remains the dominant for in US politics. Republicans have been practicing the principles of the Citizens United Decision for a very long time.

The NRA has 4 million members times $50 a year. That's $200 million to spend on political campaigning. Astonishing!!!
-1 # Wotan 2011-05-08 13:53
When I was younger, I belonged to the NRA.
I bought a 1903A3 Springfield Army surplus rifle from an armory in Colorado. Back then it was a nice organization for gun owners. I don't see my rights as a gun owner demin-ished an iota for owning such a firearm. What I don't need, nor does anyone else, is an assault rifle. If for no other reason, give wild game a decent chance.
-2 # Wotan 2011-05-08 14:05
If the 2nd ammendment crowd, along with the Congress they have bought and paid for, are so passionate about the right to keep and bear arms,they should volunteer for the
armed forces so they could use that right
to own and bear. The Republican shit dis-
turbers have found a patsy in the NRA. In
a totalitarian government, they would be
shot. The NRA is a subversive organiza-

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