The fear mongering is beginning. The National Rifle Association plans to spend $15 million on various ads portraying Senator Obama as a threat to the Second Amendment rights upheld last week by the Supreme Court.
“Our members understand that if Barack Obama is elected president, and he has support in the Senate to confirm anti-gun Supreme Court nominees, [the District of Columbia v. Heller decision] could be taken away from us in the future,” Chris Cox, head of the NRA’s political arm, told Politico.
The politically powerful gun rights group will have two different campaigns 1) communicating with its 4 million members 2) communicating with tens of millions more firearms owners across the country.
This fall, NRA members will get automated phone calls, mail and pre-election editions of the group’s three magazines making the case against Obama. More broadly, the group will use their full financial arsenal to hammer Obama via TV, radio and newspaper ads in some of about 15 battleground states in the Midwest and Mountain West.
“We look forward to showing him ‘bitter,’” Cox said, referring to Obama’s statement this spring that some in rural America “cling” to guns and religion out of bitterness.
Since 2000, Democrats have made a conscious decision to avoid alienating gun owners and Second Amendment enthusiasts, as many in the party believe a NRA-stoked backlash cost Al Gore his home state of Tennessee, as well as West Virginia and Arkansas, in the 2000 presidential election. In the days leading up to Election Day four years ago, Democratic nominee Sen. John F. Kerry (MA) even went so far as to symbolically court gun owners, donning camouflage and hoisting a 12-gauge in what turned out to be a goose hunt in more ways than one.
Obama never raises the gun issue on the stump except, when asked, to say that he respects Second Amendment rights. When the Heller decision came down last week, he issued a statement that indicated neither support nor opposition to the decision but clarity on a broader point meant to assure gun owners that he’s not a threat.
“Senator Obama has always believed that the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to bear arms and will uphold the constitutional rights of law-abiding gun owners, hunters and sportsmen as president,” said spokesman Tommy Vietor.
“Senator Obama also believes that we can work together to enact common-sense laws, like closing the gun show loophole and improving our background check system, so that guns do not fall into the hands of terrorists or criminals.”
One pro-gun Democrat in the House said the decision would actually help Obama by clarifying that gun ownership is an individual right and further dissuading Democrats from pursuing what has proved to be a political loser at the national level.
And the next step in that cause could be a politically awkward one for Obama.
The NRA deliberately filed suit on Friday to overturn handgun laws in Chicago, Obama’s hometown, hoping to put Obama on the spot
While the gun culture is typically associated with the South, it’s actually the industrial Midwest where hunting is most popular.
Pennsylvania has the most NRA members per capita of any state, and, after Texas, the next four states that sell the most hunting-related goods are Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and Missouri, according to the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.
But if Cox and the NRA have anything to do with it, some of those traditional moderates will be stuck on “bitter” and Obama’s past support for strict gun-control measures.
“Apparently, he thinks gun owners are either fools or have short memories,” Cox said. “I can assure him he’s wrong on both.”