LEWISTON – Maine members of the National Rifle Association and other local sportsmen recently have received anti-Obama mailings as part of the group’s multimillion-dollar fall campaigning blitz.

In June, the NRA announced its intention to spend about $40 million on this year’s campaign, with $15 million of that targeting Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.

The mailing is a large postcard that directly quotes Obama saying he believes in the Second Amendment on one side and, on the other, lists three examples of what the NRA calls Obama’s “radical record.”

The first example claims Obama “endorsed a complete ban on handgun ownership.”

The mailing cites Obama’s response on an Illinois state Senate questionnaire distributed in 1996. The questionnaire asks if the candidate supports a handgun ban and the respondent answered “yes.” But Obama has said repeatedly that he does not, and has never “favored an all-out ban on handguns.”

The discrepancy also came up during Obama’s Democratic primary race against New York Sen. Hillary Clinton. The Obama campaign said the survey was filled out by a staffer who made a mistake on Obama’s position. Later, it was revealed the survey contained Obama’s own handwriting in response to a different question, but the Obama campaign still contends that Obama did not fill out the whole survey and was unaware of the staffer’s “error.”

On June 26, Obama released a statement reacting to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that the Washington, D.C., ban on handguns was unconstitutional.

“I have always believed that the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to bear arms, but I also identify with the need for crime-ravaged communities to save their children from the violence that plagues our streets through common-sense, effective safety measures,” Obama said in the statement.

Jessica Santillo, Obama’s spokeswoman in Maine, issued a general statement when asked about his positions.

“Barack Obama believes in the Second Amendment and will protect the rights of hunters, sportsmen and law-abiding citizens to purchase, own, transport and use guns,” she wrote in the release.

The NRA mailer’s second point claims Obama voted to ban firearms in the home even for self-protection, referencing a pair of votes in the Illinois state Senate in 2004.

The measure actually made it legal for residents to use unregistered guns for self-defense while at home, even if the town they lived in required registration.

It did not “ban firearms in the home.” The bill passed, despite Obama’s vote in opposition.

The third example used by the NRA is that Obama supported “increasing gun and ammo taxes by a massive 500 percent,” a claim based on a blogger’s account of a weekly newspaper’s account of an anti-gun rally in 1999 at which Obama spoke.

But Obama has never raised the possibility of taxing guns or ammunition in any of his campaigns for the Illinois Legislature, U.S. Senate or the presidency.

In Maine, the mailer coincides with increased attention from Republican presidential candidate John McCain, who recently received the NRA’s endorsement.

McCain praised the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning the D.C. handgun ban and opposes bans on assault rifles and ammunition, but supports “requiring gun manufacturers to include gun safety devices such as trigger locks in product packaging,” according to his campaign Web site. McCain supports instant background checks on people buying guns, even at gun shows, but opposes waiting periods for gun purchases.

“I know how to use guns,” McCain, a Vietnam veteran, said during the Republican presidential candidate debate in Florida last November. “I don’t own one now.”

McCain, who has been at odds with the NRA in the past because of his support for background checks, gained popularity among members of the group by naming Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate. Palin, scheduled for a visit to Bangor on Thursday, is a lifetime member of the NRA.

Her husband, Todd Palin, visited Maine on Saturday to rally support for the Republican ticket.


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