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Which John McCain Is Showing Up at the NRA Convention Today?

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Today, the National Rifle Association convenes its annual meeting in Louisville. Speaking to the group will be presumptive Republican nominee John McCain. The American Hunters and Shooters Association (AHSA) ran an ad in the Louisville paper today with an open letter to NRA members who need to get the real story about John McCain. They won't get it from the NRA's leadership. The full ad can be seen here, and here is the text:

When Senator John McCain addresses NRA leaders at their convention today, we all need to ask where does he really stand on the important issue of background checks on all gun transfers at gun shows.

In March of 2004, on the floor of the US Senate, Senator McCain delivered an impassioned plea for legislation to close the so-called "gun show loophole".

SENATOR MCCAIN: "Why do we need this amendment? Some might point to tragedies such as Columbine, but as horrific as the massacre at Columbine was, where eleven young people needlessly lost their lives, that is not what drives the need to close the gun-show loophole.

We need this amendment because criminals and terrorists have exploited and are exploiting this very obvious loophole in our gun safety laws... "We need this amendment because, according to the NRA [National Rifle Association], 'hundreds of thousands' of unlicensed firearms sales occur at gun shows each year. We need this amendment because ATF has identified gun shows as the second leading source of firearms recovered from illegal gun trafficking investigations...

"We also need this amendment because my law-abiding constituents who attend gun shows in Arizona should not have to rub shoulders with the scum of the Earth who use this loophole to evade background checks to buy firearms to peddle to God knows who."

Now, McCain argues that no new gun laws are needed.

Has he changed his mind or has he had a "senior moment" and forgotten that he once was an outspoken national leader on this issue?

Hunters and shooters deserve to know where the leader of the "Straight Talk Express" now stands on gun shows.

So today, while Senator McCain panders to Wayne LaPierre and Chris Cox, Kentucky sportsmen need to call McCain's Senate office at 202-224-2235 and ask where the Senator really stands on this important issue.

Ray Schoenke,

President--American Hunters and Shooters Association

Today, McCain will pander to the NRA's leaders. And, the leaders will pander back. We don't expect straight talk. We expect a lovefest. By doing that, McCain continues to show his disrespect for gun owners. And, the NRA leaders continue to put their own personal political agendas ahead of the best interests of McCain if they let him off the hook.

This is a newfound relationship between the NRA and McCain.

A couple years ago, McCain was vilified by the NRA in its own publications over the gun show issue:

Anti-gun groups, led by Americans for Gun Safety, have teamed up behind U.S. Sen. John McCain to exploit terrorism in order to advance their gun control agenda. Their first target of opportunity is the traditional American gun show.

Also, just a couple years ago, the mere mention of McCain's name elicited boos from the membership. In 2002, Fox reported:

The crown booed the mention of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., lead sponsor of the campaign finance reforms that the NRA is challenging.

LaPierre said the group "must grow larger and tougher" to fend off attempts to implement waiting periods on gun purchases at gun shows, protect gun manufacturers from lawsuits and defend First Amendment freedom of speech in the form of campaign advertising.

No surprise. Back in 2000, John McCain attacked the NRA:

The NRA is entitled to their advocacy. I don't think they help the Republican Party at all, but I don't think they should in any way play a major role in the Republican Party's policy making.

Which McCain shows up at the NRA convention today? The McCain who the NRA booed and vilified or Wayne LaPierre's new best friend? The McCain who attacked the NRA and did t.v. ads in Colorado and Oregon opposing the NRA on gun shows back in 2000?

It's almost incomprehensible to think that the NRA leadership would abandon its principles to support someone who worked so hard against them. But, that's what is happening today in Louisville. That's why we want NRA members to get the answers from John McCain himself. Clearly, when it comes to McCain, the members can't trust the leaders. There's a lot of hypocrisy on both sides.

We know most gun owners do support background checks according to a survey of gun owners conducted by Field and Stream. That's the position of AHSA. But, it's not the position of the NRA, which purports to represent gun owners. But one thing is clear: real gun owners aren't represented by either McCain or the NRA.

We'll have a lot more to say about how McCain's record affects hunters and shooters over the next weeks and months. Climate change, roadless rules and public access all have to be part of the discussion.

But, to start, a real answer on gun shows would be helpful.