WASHINGTON – The National Rifle Association (search) endorsed President Bush for re-election on Wednesday, promising millions of dollars for ads, phone banks and other get-out-the-vote efforts.
"The Supreme Court is going to be crucial to the future of the Second Amendment (search), and President Bush will appoint justices that respect the Bill of Rights (search)," NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre (search) told The Associated Press in a phone interview before announcing the endorsement at a news conference in Duluth, Minn.
Bush also supports legislation to protect the firearms industry from lawsuits and opposes centralizing files on gun owners, LaPierre said, calling the difference between Bush and Democrat John Kerry (search) on guns "day and night."
LaPierre also planned news conferences in Flint, Mich.; Youngstown, Ohio, and Pittsburgh.
The gun-rights group's political action committee has already spent roughly $1 million on TV and other advertising opposing Kerry.
The NRA plans to spend about $20 million in all, focused on 10 to 15 targeted states, with efforts including radio, television and newspaper ads, phone banks, door-to-door voter contacts, up to 10 million pieces of direct mail and election messages in magazines that go to the group's 4 million members.
Kerry says he has been a hunter from childhood and a gun owner who supports the Second Amendment. But he has voted in favor of gun control and has supported extending a now-expired ban on assault-style weapons and requiring background checks at gun shows. He opposes granting gun makers immunity from civil lawsuits.
Kerry's campaign has derided the NRA's leaders as tools of the Republican Party and said they are out of touch with their membership.
Kerry has been endorsed by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. The gun-control group said Wednesday that it is joining with the Million Mom March to air a TV ad criticizing Bush's failure to press for renewal of the assault-weapons ban. The ad will air in Philadelphia, Cleveland and Miami over the next week, with an initial buy of $100,000, spokesman Peter Hamm said.