'Hunters & Shooters' endorse Obama, group says he supports gun rights
Nick Juliano
Published: Wednesday April 16, 2008

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Less than a week after coming under fire for saying small-town Pennsylvanians "cling to" gun rights, Barack Obama picked up the endorsement of a pro-gun association that has backed Democratic candidates in the past.

The American Hunters & Shooters Association said Obama's views of the 2nd Amendment have been unfairly criticized and its endorsement comes as Obama's opponents are characterizing him as an "elitist" and condescending towards gun-owners.

The group sets itself apart from the "more extreme" elements of the pro-gun lobby like the National Rifle Association and Gun Owners of America. Unlike them, AHSA favors some gun-control measures like background checks and required safety courses for concealed weapons permits. (The NRA has accused the group of being a front for the anti-gun lobby.)

Ray Schoenke, the hunters association's president, cited Obama's support of an amendment to a Department of Homeland Security funding bill that would prevent the government from confiscating citizens' guns during an emergency. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Obama's opponent in the Democratic primary, and 16 other senators voted against the amendment.

"She turned her back on America's gun owners," Schoenke said during a conference call organized by the Obama campaign Wednesday.

Schoenke said the group reached out to the Obama campaign several weeks ago, before the recent controversy surrounding his comments about small-town voters. In announcing their support in the midst of the controversy, though, the group hoped to "set the record straight," about Obama's support of an individual's right to gun ownership, he said.

"We understand that the gun issue is going to be very important in this election," said Bob Ricker, the group's executive director, citing an ongoing Supreme Court case regarding a handgun ban in Washington, DC. "Up until this time, the candidates haven't really been willing to talk about guns."