The National Rifle Association (NRA) and other gun rights groups are launching a major public relations blitz to push back against President Obama’s new executive actions on guns.
The offensive includes a series of videos, newspaper ads and email alerts from the NRA, the Gun Owners of America and the National Shooting Sports Foundation in an effort to swing public opinion against the measures.
The gun lobby hopes to rebut Obama, who cast the actions as reasonable steps to prevent senseless gun violence. They also hope to make the efforts politically unpalatable for any candidate that may back them in the 2016 election.
While Obama has defended the actions as limited, gun groups are warning supporters that the measures are just a first step toward more radical gun control.
A new video this week from the NRA stokes fears that the Obama administration plans to implement an “Australian-style” gun confiscation that would force law-abiding Americans, including hunters, to turn in their firearms.
Australia instituted a mandatory gun buyback program in the late 1990s, following a mass shooting that killed 35 people. The government purchased 650,000 guns from citizens.
The NRA video shows Democratic front-runner Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonHillary Clinton rallies DNC members in video message Trump tells conservatives he is future of GOP Senators ask feds for ‘full account’ of work to secure election from cyber threats MORE calling Australia’s gun buyback program a “good example” that is “worth considering.” And it shows Obama dismissing such worries during a recent CNN town hall on guns.
“We are creating a plot to take everybody’s guns away so that we can impose martial law?” Obama says mockingly in the video. “Yes, that is a conspiracy."
“When they’re talking about Australia, they’re talking about bans & confiscation,” the video says.
The video is one of just a series from the NRA bashing the president's gun actions. The NRA did not return requests for comment.
Groups are turning to every outlet to get their message out to supporters.
The Gun Owners of America claims it has appeared on “more than a thousand media outlets” and “dozens of talk shows” since Obama unveiled his gun actions earlier this month.
They’re also sending email alerts to mobilize members.
One alert called on gun owners to “hit Obama where it hurts.
Another has a "Star Wars" theme. “Obama has declared war on gun owners ... it’s time to strike back against the empire,” it says while depicting Obama holding a lightsaber.
Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said the gun lobby’s rhetoric “boggles his mind” and is “beyond hyperbole.”
“Their world is crumbling around them,” Gross said. “So they resort to painting this inaccurate picture that everyone wants to take your guns away."
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, which represents the firearms and ammunition industry, has taken a less confrontational tone than other gun groups.
The NSSF ran a full-page advertisement in The Washington Post this week saying it is “profoundly disappointed” that Obama would blame the industry for a recent surge in gun violence.
“[We] are not your enemies, and we deeply resent being cast in that light,” the ad reads.
The NSSF claims it has long supported many of the gun safety initiatives that Obama is taking — from cracking down on straw purchasers who sell guns to criminals to creating a registry of people with criminal records and mental health conditions that would prohibit them from owning guns. However, the group believes it is being treated unfairly by the president’s rhetoric on guns.
“President Obama is badly misinformed,” said Larry Keane, the group’s senior vice president and general counsel.
The gun groups are also working to make opposition to Obama's gun actions a litmus test for any Republican candidate with GOP voters poised to hit the polls.
The Gun Owners of America is openly urging members to elect a “pro-gun president” who will roll back Obama’s executive actions and is pushing to defund enforcement.
“The easiest solution is to elect a pro-gun president,” the group states in an email alert.
“While several presidential hopefuls have already indicated they would repeal Obama’s executive actions if elected, the GOA-endorsed candidate, Ted CruzTed CruzAt CPAC, Trump lashes out at media Conquering Trump returns to conservative summit The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE, has promised to erase Obama’s gun control legacy,” it continued.
Many candidates have been quick to vow they’ll repeal Obama's actions if they win the White House.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) called Obama “the most anti-gun president” in history, while front-runner Donald TrumpDonald TrumpI will leave the Democrats if Keith Ellison is elected its chairman The Hill's 12:30 Report GOP lawmaker at town hall calls on Trump to release his tax returns MORE said he'll “unsign" the actions "so fast."
Gun rights groups hope their efforts will “create enough momentum” for a Republican president to repeal the measures, according to Erich Pratt, executive director of the Gun Owners of America.
“We want to make enough of a push that the Obama administration retreats on this — as they did on the bullet ban — or where the next Republican president says, ‘This is a no brainer, it’s one of the first things I will do, repeal these executive actions,’” Pratt said.
Despite the pushback, there's little evidence the Obama administration will back off the issue. This week, Attorney General Loretta Lynch defended Obama's action before Senate Republicans.
While gun control divided congressional Democrats in the past, the party's lawmakers appear united behind the president's actions.
Democrats feel they have an edge in 2016 with the issue following the spate of mass shootings during the Obama presidency.
Clinton has been the most vocal, quickly backing Obama's actions and vowing to go even further if elected.
Clinton's also used the issue to put Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersI will leave the Democrats if Keith Ellison is elected its chairman The Hill's 12:30 Report Trump tells conservatives he is future of GOP MORE (I-Vt.), her chief primary opponent, on the defensive. She has accused Sanders of aiding the gun lobby, bringing up past votes against gun-control legislation cast by the rural state senator.
The president has also vowed to push his message during the 2016 election. In a New York Times op-ed he said he wouldn't support any Democrat this year who doesn't support "common-sense gun reform.”
Gun groups believe they can counter that message.
Pratt likened Obama's promises that legitimate gun owners can keep their firearms to his broken vow that the public could keep their health plans under ObamaCare.
“So now we have, ‘If you like your gun, you can keep your gun,’ ” Pratt said.