January 18, 2013

Obama backers aim to outflank NRA on gun control

To succeed will require overturning two decades of conventional wisdom that gun control is bad politics.

The Associated Press

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From left to right: Hinna Zeejah, 8, Taejah Goode, 10, Julia Stokes, 11, and Grant Fritz, 8, who wrote letters to President Barack Obama about the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., watch as the president jokes about being left handed as he signs executive orders outlining proposals to reduce gun violence, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, in the South Court Auditorium at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

But the NRA, which claims some 4 million members, has already activated its base, issuing a fiery appeal this week in which Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre warned backers: "It's about banning your guns, PERIOD! ... I warned you this day was coming and now it's here. This is the fight of the century."

As publicity spreads about Obama's proposals the NRA has been adding about 8,000 members a day, according to the group's president, David Keene. The NRA grades lawmakers on votes and has had apparent success in swaying congressional debates for years.

"We support the folks who've helped us in the past, and we remind them that we're also interested in what they do today and tomorrow," Keene said. "I'm convinced that once this thing gets debated the folks who've been with us in the past are probably going to be with us in the future."

Obama's call for an assault weapons ban is a particularly heavy lift, but backers are more optimistic about increased background checks, which were favored by 84 percent in an Associated Press-GfK poll this week.

Supporters hope those kinds of poll numbers will help move lawmakers to buck history and the NRA and vote in favor of gun-control bills.

"We definitely have our work cut out for us. The math's not with us right now in terms of the votes," said Andy Pelosi, president of Gun Free Kids. "It's going to be difficult, but I am optimistic. I think the tone in the country is much, much different, and you can't underestimate that."

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