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Grassroots pro-gun groups prepare to battle proposed restrictions

 

First came the presidential campaign. That was followed by another campaign -- between the White House and congressional Republicans -- over the fiscal crisis and tax hikes. It appears inevitable the next campaign, one that will be waged across the country, will focus on gun control. 

Both sides of the debate are gearing up for a political battle as Vice President Biden prepares to submit recommendations to President Obama by Tuesday on ways to curb gun violence. Those proposals are the result of a month-long policy review in the wake of the Connecticut school massacre. 

But while the National Rifle Association has called for increased school security and a long, hard look at the entertainment industry as part of that plan, gun groups say the Biden task force appears likely to focus on firearms restrictions. 

In anticipation of those proposals being formally submitted, pro-gun organizations are starting to band together. 

Already, activists are planning a nationwide "Gun Appreciation Day" on Jan. 19, two days before the inauguration. Organizers hope it will rival the so-called "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" protests from last year. 

Meanwhile, firearms manufacturers and organizations are seeing a big spike in activity. The NRA says 100,000 people joined in the last 20 days. They expect that what they call the "attack" on the Second Amendment will boost their membership from 4.2 million to 5 million. 

The recent uptick in background checks also suggests gun sales at shops and shows across the country are skyrocketing. In December, background checks reached a record 2.78 million. For all of 2012, the number of checks was 19.5 million, a 19 percent increase over 2011. 

As with any campaign, expect a lot of money to be involved. At first blush, the gun-rights groups appear to enter with the upper hand. 

The NRA reportedly spent more than $20 million on federal election campaigns last year, while gun control groups contributed just $4,000. 

But those groups, many of which met with Biden's task force Wednesday, could be getting more involved as the administration reportedly starts to organize religious leaders and other groups to address gun violence. 

And former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was seriously wounded in a mass shooting in January 2011, has organized the Americans for Responsible Solutions political action committee to help counter the well-funded pro-gun lobby. 

The group wants to raise $20 million for the 2014 congressional elections. 

And while the NRA is boosting its membership, so is the national group Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which attracted more than 400,000 new members since the Connecticut shooting. 

Biden on Friday was finishing up a week of virtually back-to-back meetings on gun violence. He met earlier with gun-control groups, and then on Thursday with the NRA and other firearms and sportsmen organizations. He met with representatives from the entertainment industry Thursday evening and with representatives from the video-game industry Friday. 

He has said the recommendations being seriously considered include "universal background checks" and limits on high-capacity magazines. 

Fox News' Carl Cameron contributed to this report.