Romney to woo key conservative group at NRA event

By Charles Babington

Associated Press

Published: Friday, April 13 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

Massachusetts quadrupled its gun-licensing fee while Romney was governor. He signed a law that made permanent a ban on assault-type weapons, although it was coupled with measures backed by gun-rights groups, such as the creation of an appeals board for people seeking to restore their gun licenses.

As he was considering his first presidential run in 2006, Romney signed up for a lifetime NRA membership. He calls himself a strong supporter of gun ownership rights.

Romney drew snickers in 2008 by claiming he sometimes hunts "small varmints." He showed more humility and humor last month in Alabama, where he said he hoped to go hunting with a friend who "can actually show me which end of the rifle to point."

In his prepared remarks, Romney says: "We need a president who will stand up for the rights of hunters, sportsmen, and those seeking to protect their homes and their families. President Obama has not; I will."

Dan Gross, president of the Brady gun-control group, said he is happy that Obama spoke in support of the family of Florida shooting victim Trayvon Martin and called for more national dialogue on gun violence following last year's shooting of then-Rep. Gabriel Giffords, D-Ariz., which killed six people. "Our disappointment is that his voice is really yet to be heard in that conversation," Gross said.

He said Romney is pandering to a group that has abetted the killings of thousands of people.

Although the Florida case might stir new debate, gun issues have sharply faded in recent presidential elections. Obama rarely broaches the topic. GOP candidate forums often elicit no questions on the subject.

The NRA speech is Romney's only scheduled public appearance until Monday. The focus on gun rights will mark a sharp turn from the heavy emphasis on female voters and women's issues in the past several days.

Associated Press writer David A. Lieb contributed to this report.

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