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NRA's False Attacks And Campaign Of Division Are Out Of Step With America

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The chief lobbyist for the National Rifle Association has been attacking Sen. Barack Obama's views on preventing gun violence in an Op-Ed in yesterday's Washington Times, and again on FOX News.

His charges fit into a pattern of attacks that CNN, The Washington Post, Congressional Quarterly, The Cleveland Plain Dealer and FactCheck.org have called "misleading," "a huge stretch," "intentionally dishonest," "pants on fire wrong," "exaggerated," and that "distort Obama's record on gun control beyond recognition."

On the other hand, he doesn't say much about the support for common sense gun restrictions once given by Sen. John McCain, a man the NRA used to call "one of the premier flag carriers for the enemies of the Second Amendment."

The truth? Sen. Obama has consistently indicated his support for an individual right to own a gun pursuant to the Second Amendment. He also believes, along with the U.S. Supreme Court, that there can be reasonable restrictions on guns to protect the public. Like most Americans, Sen. Obama believes we can enforce criminal background checks on all gun sales, crack down on illegal gun dealers, and restrict easy access to military-style semi-automatic assault weapons without infringing on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans.

As Sen. Obama said in his speech accepting the Democratic nomination, "The reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than they are for those plagued by gang violence in Cleveland, but don't tell me we can't uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals."

So what explains the NRA's "intentionally dishonest" campaign against Sen. Obama? Two things seem important: the U.S. Supreme Court and economic concerns.

Ironically, it may have been Justice Antonin Scalia and the Supreme Court that stripped NRA bosses of their long-time weapon used to scare voters about candidates: "They're going to take your guns away!" When the Court in June declared an individual right to own a gun for self defense in the home, the gun issue began to lose its status as a "wedge" issue almost overnight. We see this today where the NRA is spending millions of dollars across the country and Sen. Obama remains competitive in traditional "gun rights" states from Virginia to Nevada.

In short, people know that nobody's going to "take their guns away" particularly because the Supreme Court said so.

Ironically for the NRA, however, while Justice Scalia said that total gun bans are "off the table," he also outlined an array of common sense gun policies that he said were "presumptively lawful." Some examples he cited are laws against carrying concealed weapons, laws against "dangerous and unusual weapons," and laws against taking guns into "sensitive places" like schools and government buildings. Surprisingly, the country's best-known conservative Justice may have sounded the death knell for the gun lobby's campaign of divisive wedge politics.

In addition, the nation's sagging economy has also clearly taken center stage since the Supreme Court's decision in June. Americans concerned about paying their mortgage, filling the gas tank, paying for college, and finding affordable health care for their children and elderly parents, probably aren't as receptive or concerned about all the misleading charges about Sen. Obama and guns. A lot less individuals are "single-issue" voters in today's complex world.

These two events cannot be taken in isolation. The economic pressures Americans feel are real; but because the Supreme Court made it clear that law-abiding citizens' guns are safe, gun owners are less likely to be swayed by appeals to their fears on this single issue, rather than their hopes for the country. Finding themselves in this political box, NRA leaders are stuck with just one option: tell lies over and over again about Barack Obama and hope voters buy it one last time.

So far, however, they aren't. Sen. Obama's message of finding a middle ground to solve America's problems is resonating across the country - not only about the gun issue, but on the whole range of issues facing this country today.

(Note to readers: This entry, along with past entries, has been co-posted on bradycampaign.org/blog and the Huffington Post.)