With help from the likes of tough-guy actor Chuck Norris, the National Rifle Association wants to make sure pro-gun voters don't take their rights for granted this election season. And the group wants to see President Obama defeated.
"We believe that gun owners and hunters can make a difference," says Stephanie Samford, an NRA spokeswoman. “Wisconsin is a swing state. Wisconsin matters."
Thus, the NRA has bought more than $1.3 million in TV ads in Wisconsin, Florida, Ohio and Virginia, Samford says.
The “Defend Freedom, Defeat Obama” ad tells viewers the president is “chipping away at our Second Amendment rights.”
The powerful national gun lobby cites Obama’s nomination of Supreme Court Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor and the appointment of Attorney General Eric Holder, all of whom it characterizes as anti-gun, as proof Obama is not a friend of the Second Amendment, which protects "the right of the people to keep and bear arms."
Holder and Obama, note the NRA, also support reinstating a ban on assault weapons.
“We look at Barack Obama’s record and it scares the heck out of gun owners,” Samford says. “They fear what is coming down the pipeline.”
The interest by the NRA in Wisconsin's outcome comes as the presidential campaign enters its last few weeks. The latest Marquette Law School poll showed Obama with a 53 to 42 percent lead over Mitt Romney in Wisconsin.
While the TV ad directly tells viewers to support the Romney/Ryan ticket, a mailer featuring Chuck Norris -- the "black belt patriot" -- includes a voter registration application but doesn’t mention a presidential candidate by name. The mailer is being distributed by the Freedom Action Foundation, an educational arm of the NRA, which is restricted by law from directly advocating for candidates.
“So it’s great that you’ve chosen to exercise your right to hunt,'' Norris is quoted on the mailer. "But that’s not enough. If we don’t also protect our rights, we’re going to lose them. And the only way to protect our rights is to vote for the candidates who support them.”
The NRA's continued focus on Wisconsin comes after its long-sought victory to pass a concealed carry law in the state.
The group had been trying for at least a decade to get such a law passed here, finally succeeding in the summer of 2011 under a Republican-controlled Legislature and GOP Gov. Scott Walker. That leaves Illinois as the only state that doesn't allow its citizens to carry a concealed weapon.
While the NRA continues to paint Obama as a threat to gun owner rights, the president isn't feeling the love from gun control groups either.
Many were unhappy that he supported a regulation passed under his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush, allowing visitors to national parks to carry concealed, loaded weapons.
Despite a legal challenge, the regulation took effect shortly after Obama took office in January 2009.
Jeri Bonavia, executive director of Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort, says Obama has not seized an opportunity as president to become a leader on anti-violence issues.
“At a minimum, he should have gotten a national discussion going on what we can do to prevent gun violence,” Bonavia says. “The president has an obligation to take up this issue, which has devastated so many communities. Years of silence are not serving the people well.”
Still, Obama is better than the alternative, she says. Republican candidate Romney, who signed a ban on assault weapons in his state while governor of Massachusetts, now expresses views on the campaign trail that are “lock step” with those of the NRA, Bonavia says.