Opinion: NRA plans a wider ad assault on Barack Obama in battleground states

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The National Rifle Assn. is about to turn up the volume on its campaign against Barack Obama, airing more ads taking him to task over his gun record.

Starting as early as Sunday, the NRA will be airing a new batch of spots in more battleground states, such as Ohio, Virginia and Florida. As colleague Noam Levey reported back in June, some say the NRA is losing sway. But Democrats, who generally favor restrictions on guns, still shy away from the issue, particularly in must-win swing states.

The NRA already is up with spots in Colorado, New Mexico and Pennsylvania. Some use Obama’s line, uttered at a San Francisco fundraiser, about ‘bitter’ people clinging to their guns. Obama’s attorneys sent letters asking that television stations cease airing the ads, but the spots continue to show on cable.


The NRA has set up a website attacking Obama, and so far has disclosed spending $2.2 million on its independent expenditure campaign against the Democratic nominee, Federal Election Commission records show.

That’s just a fraction of what the final total will be. NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said the organization will end up spending well into the “eight figures” -- some have estimated as much as $40 million -- by Nov. 4. The group spent $20 million on ads against Sen. John Kerry four years ago.

“Things are a little more expensive this time around,” Arulanandam said.

Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt says ‘Obama has always believed that the 2nd Amendment protects the individual right to own a firearm.’ The gunners’ group is claiming that Obama would be the most anti-gun president in American history.

John McCain also has taken to talking about Obama’s gun views, declaring last week that ‘if Senator Obama is elected president, the rights of law-abiding gun owners will be at risk.’ McCain noted that he opposed legislation to ‘ban guns, ban ammunition and ban magazines.’

Obama’s stand on guns might not be such a bad thing in the view of many Californians. Led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein in Washington and California politicians including Gray Davis and outgoing state Senate leader Don Perata, California has led efforts to restrict military-style semi-automatic weapons, large magazines and the sale of cheap handguns most often used in robberies.

“I don’t believe we’ll be spending money in California,” Arulanandam said.

-- Dan Morain

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