NRA Targets Manchin, A-Rated Once, Gun Debate Grows Personal

Photograph by Karen Bleier/AFP via Getty Images

The National Rifle Association (NRA) Annual Convention on May 4, 2013 in Houston, Texas.

The National Rifle Association is out with a new television ad criticizing West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin for “working with” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and President Barack Obama to push for stricter gun controls.

“Concerned? You should be,” a narrator in the 30-second ad running in the senator’s home state says. “Tell Senator Manchin to honor his commitment to the Second Amendment and reject the Obama-Bloomberg gun control agenda.”

Manchin, a Democratic gun enthusiast who until now had a A rating from the gun rights lobbying group, helped write a compromise measure that would have expanded background checks to cover firearms purchased at gun shows and online.

In addition to the TV ad about Manchin, the NRA has a new radio ad in Arkansas defending Senator Mark Pryor, according to the Associated Press. Pryor is one of four Democrats who voted against the background check bill. The ad urges voters to thank Pryor for supporting gun rights and for not listening to the mayor of New York City, the AP reported.

Manchin worked with Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican, on the background checks measure. Yesterday in Washington, Manchin met with families of the 20 children shot to death last December at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut — a crime that touched off the current gun debate.

The Manchin-Toomey amendment failed on April 17.

Since then, the New York mayor has been calling out senators — Democrats and Republicans alike — for voting against expanded background checks, a proposal that polls show a majority of Americans support. Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a nonprofit organization that Mayor Bloomberg co-founded and funds, has aired ads chastising Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona for voting against The Manchin-Toomey plan.

The NRA has been running ads in New Hampshire thanking Ayotte for her support of gun rights.

Yesterday, Bloomberg mailed a letter to more than 1,000 New York City donors asking them to withhold campaign contributions to Pryor and the other three Democratic senators who voted against the measure. It was another sign of the mayor’s growing interest in national politics, particularly when it comes to guns. He has spent at least $28 million of his personal fortune in the past year on campaign contributions and issues ads.

The mayor, 71 and a political independent, is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

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