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National Rifle Association targets background checks with new round of ads

NRA president David Keene speaks about new gun proposals issued by President Obama. (Credit: CNN)

NRA president David Keene speaks about new gun proposals issued by President Obama. (Credit: CNN)

(CNN) — The National Rifle Association is heading back to the airwaves with yet another round of ads aimed at fighting gun-control initiatives circulating in Washington.

The advocacy group announced earlier this week that its CEO, Wayne LaPierre, would unveil the new ad campaign Saturday night from Salt Lake City during a speech at the Western Hunting and Conservation Expo.

In the same statement saying LaPierre would showcase new ads, the NRA said he would also “confront the real consequences of so-called ‘universal background checks.'”

As it turned out, LaPierre did not mention any new advertising in his remarks. But he did — as he has done passionately in the past — rail against President Barack Obama and other Democrats and the background checks that he said are “at the very heart of their anti-gun agenda.”

“This so-called universal background check that you’re hearing about all over the media … is aimed at one thing: It’s aimed at registering your guns,” LaPierre claimed. “And when another tragic opportunity presents itself, that registry will be used to confiscate your guns.”

The ads are the NRA’s latest salvo in the gun debate, attempting to influence the public — and, thus, lawmakers — to challenge a fresh gun-control push, one that the NRA CEO called “the single most devastating attack on the Second Amendment that this country has ever seen.”

The influential lobbying group has been vocal since Obama called for action in the days after the mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, that left 20 students and six adults dead.

Afterward, NRA leaders said they would work with local officials to get more qualified armed guards in schools, while sharply resisting proposals to ban assault weapons, limit the size of gun magazines and to expand the system of background checks for firearms purchases.

The NRA efforts include advertisements such as the one, broadcast in mid-January, that described Obama as an “elitist hypocrite” because his two daughters are protected while at school by armed federal agents and yet he is “skeptical” about having armed personnel at all schools.

The White House blasted that ad, as did members of both political parties, for injecting the president’s children into the debate (and not acknowledging they may face different threats than other American schoolchildren).

But NRA President David Keene defended the spot on CNN, saying, “What we’re talking about is folks who have protections for their own children, … then pooh-pooh the idea that the average American’s children should have the same sort of protection.”

The gun rights organization also posted a web video that month asserting Obama’s attempts to enact gun control laws would result in the “confiscation” of people’s firearms.

More recently, the NRA ran ads in newspapers in five states — Arkansas, Louisiana, Maine, North Carolina and West Virginia — with the headline: “Will Obama’s gun control proposals work? His own experts say ‘No.'”

Democratic incumbent senators in three of those states are facing tough reelection fights, another is retiring and in the fifth, Maine, moderate Republican Sen. Susan Collins is up for reelection next year.

That ad buy, which also includes regional publications and online commercials, will cost the NRA about $350,000, a source familiar with it told CNN.

This follows the spending of about $100,000 to air a web video on various news sites in Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Colorado, South Dakota and the District of Columbia.

The NRA has been successful in the past in thwarting gun-control legislation by building support on the grass-roots level, and that is where the group is focusing much of its efforts now.

Still, the organization has a challenge, given the horrific nature of the Newtown massacre — coming on the heels of several other mass shootings — and the high priority that Obama is placing on gun control. It also has competition in terms of ads, with groups such as MoveOn.org and Mayors Against Illegal Guns taking to newspapers and the airwaves themselves to push for stricter gun control measures.