The National Rifle Association (search) mocks John Kerry's (search) attempts to portray himself as friendly to hunting and other gun sports, putting the Democrat in its sights with a $400,000-a-week television ad buy in several presidential battleground states.
"There's a 20-year record he's trying to run away from," said NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre (search), who announced the ad buy in an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday.
The ad, a half-hour infomercial that was to run first in South Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Missouri and Florida starting Wednesday or Thursday, tells viewers that Kerry's voting record in the Senate shows that if elected president, he would try to erode gun owners' rights.
"As you'll see, the truth is that John Kerry is trying to deceive voters by the millions," LaPierre says in the ad. "So ask yourself, if John Kerry will lie about his position on something as sacred as the Bill of Rights, what issue won't he lie about? You'd think a man who claims to represent Massachusetts would stand for the freedoms won there."
In appearances in battleground states, Kerry has frequently portrayed himself as friendly to hunters and other sportsmen and sportswomen. At a Labor Day campaign stop in West Virginia, the Massachusetts senator displayed a union-made shotgun the president of the United Mine Workers, Cecil Roberts, gave him.
"It's a beautiful piece," Kerry said. "It's a beautiful gift, Cecil, but I can't take it to the debate with me."
Kerry has called himself a hunter from age 12 and a gun owner who supports the Second Amendment. But he has voted in favor of gun control. Kerry supports extending the soon-to-expire ban on assault-style weapons and requiring background checks at gun shows. He opposes granting gun makers immunity from civil lawsuits.
Responding to LaPierre's criticism, Kerry campaign spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said, "The NRA leaders are tools of the Republican Party and out of touch with their members, so it's no surprise they're doing George Bush's dirty work."
In the NRA ad, union members and hunters accuse Kerry of misrepresenting his position on gun rights. "I look at him and I go, 'What a phony,'" Massachusetts voter Marc Folco says in the infomercial. "He's no sportsman, he's no hunter."
LaPierre said the shotgun Kerry displayed during his recent West Virginia appearance would be banned under a bill Kerry co-sponsored.
The NRA plans to make decisions on where the anti-Kerry infomercial will run next on a weekly basis, LaPierre said.
The ad is financed with limited individual contributions to the NRA's political action committee, the only way the group can legally air it until Election Day under a campaign finance law that bans the use of corporate or union money on ads targeting presidential or congressional candidates close to elections.
The 4 million-member NRA, which sued unsuccessfully to overturn the ban on so-called "soft money," had about $7 million in its PAC as August began, the most recent figures available. The group hopes to raise enough from its members to spend about $20 million on its election activities, about as much as it spent in the 2002 election when it could still use soft money, LaPierre said.
To keep its political views on the air despite the soft-money ban, the NRA is broadcasting "NRA News" three hours a day on Sirius satellite radio, which reaches roughly 400,000 listeners, LaPierre said. The NRA, also looking at acquiring broadcast properties, contends it is as legitimate a news outlet as TV networks and newspapers and deserves a media exemption to the campaign law's political ad restrictions.
Addressing another major issue, LaPierre said the NRA is so confident Congress and President Bush will allow a federal assault-weapons ban to expire on Monday that it doesn't plan to run any ads pushing for an end to the 10-year-old ban.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said Wednesday that the Senate wouldn't revisit the assault weapons-ban issue this year. Republicans tabled the issue earlier this year at the NRA's request.
Many Democrats who supported the ban in 1994 now think it cost them House control in that year's elections, and both parties know union members with guns at home could swing a close presidential election this year, LaPierre said.
The NRA wants Congress to pass legislation allowing corrections officers to carry guns when they are off-duty, he said, praising a federal bill passed earlier this year allowing retired police officers to carry firearms.