NRA endorses Romney as ‘only hope’ for firearms freedom

The National Rifle Association (NRA) endorsed Mitt Romney for president late Thursday.

NRA Executive vice president Wayne LaPierre and NRA Political Victory Fund chairman Chris Cox will formally announce the endorsement at a Romney rally in Virginia later Thursday evening. Vice presidential candidate Paul RyanPaul RyanOvernight Defense: GOP leaders express concerns after 9/11 veto override | Lawmakers press for Syria 'plan B' | US touts anti-ISIS airstrikes Overnight Finance: Lawmakers float criminal charges for Wells Fargo chief | Scrutiny on Trump's Cuba dealings | Ryan warns of recession if no tax reform Overnight Healthcare: Watchdog says ObamaCare program made illegal payments MORE will also be on hand.

“In this election, there is no debate,” LaPierre said in a statement. “There is only one choice – only one hope – to save our firearms freedom and our way of life.”

The endorsement is not surprising — the NRA has a history of supporting conservative candidates, who traditionally support strong gun rights.

“Today, we live in an America that is getting harder to recognize every day led by a President who mocks our values, belittles our faith, and is threatened by our freedom,” Cox said in a statement.

Gun rights became a campaign issue earlier in the year after a mass shooting at a movie theater in Colorado.

The late-night shooting at a crowded premier for "The Dark Knight Rises" left 12 dead and dozens wounded has rekindled calls by some on the left to push for stricter gun laws.

The semi-automatic rifle, an AR-15, was illegal under federal law until a ban on it was lifted in 2004.

“I still believe that the Second Amendment is the right course to preserve and defend and don't believe that new laws are going to make a difference in this type of tragedy,” Romney said at the time.