Voting bloc has 'deep-seated' concerns
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama speaks at a rally in Lancaster, Pa., on Sept. 4. He strongly denied that he had any intention of taking away anyone's shotguns, rifles or handguns. (Associated Press)
The nation's gun owners have the presidential election in their sights.
Some are up at arms about the prospect of future gun legislation should Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama win the White House. Others are beefing up their personal arsenals, skittish that firearms could become scarce or too expensive in the near future.
"If the economy is down, and gun sales are up, it shows you just how deep-seated the concern is out there about the situation," said Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association.
"Most gun owners at least until recently have been misled by Senator Obama. Though he claims to be an advocate for the Second Amendment, his voting record in the Illinois Senate says otherwise. He voted for a bill that would ban nearly every hunting rifle, shotgun and target rifle owned by Illinois citizens," Mr. Pearson continued.
"His campaign has done a good job burying his take on firearms," he added.
Hal Goldstein, owner of the Armory gun shop in Annapolis, said, "People should be scared."
"Sales are definitely up," he said. "I've got people with Obama stickers on their cars coming in to buy. We're looking at possible a super- Democratic majority [in Congress], and a president who's going to do what's best for the collective. I don't want to sound paranoid, but the prices could go way out of sight."
Mr. Obama's campaign Web site cites "the great conservation legacy" of American hunters, including Theodore Roosevelt.
"Barack Obama believes the Second Amendment creates an individual right, and he respects the constitutional rights of Americans to bear arms. He will protect the rights of hunters and other law-abiding Americans to purchase, own, transport and use guns," the site states.
Not all gun owners are leery of Mr. Obama. He has the endorsement of the American Hunters and Shooters Association (AHSA), a Maryland-based group that describes itself as mainstream hunters without "a radical agenda."
Mr. Pearson, however, buys none of it.
"This is all just a propaganda mill. And the American Hunters and Shooters Association is a leftist, elitist group." he said. "They're a front for the Brady Campaign [to Prevent] Gun Violence." The Brady Campaign also has endorsed Sen. Obama's candidacy.
AHSA President Ray Schoenke said his group is "not a front for anybody."
"The issue that Senator Obama - or Senator [John] McCain, for that matter - is going to take America's guns away has been hyped up," Mr. Schoenke said. "If people are looking for an excuse not to vote for Senator Obama, then it shouldn't be on the gun issue.
"If people are nervous, they need to remember the Supreme Court decision this summer, which says the government cannot confiscate or ban guns," he said.
Mr. Obama has not made any points with the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), a Connecticut-based nonprofit group of 4,000 gun makers, retailers, sportsmen and publishers.
The NSSF claims that on Sept. 27, the Obama campaign "unlawfully obtained and made unauthorized use of a proprietary media list" belonging to the group and has since sent a cease-and-desist letter to campaign officials.
Meanwhile, the National Rifle Association (NRA) has launched get-out-the vote drives, including lawn signs that read "I'm a 'bitter' gun owner and I vote."
"We're arming gun owners, who are a very loyal voting bloc, with the facts. And it's a fact that gun control has become a political liability. Senator Obama is spending millions trying to camouflage his take on the issue," said NRA spokesman Chris Cox.
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