The National Rifle Association is out with its biggest ad buy to date, pushing a sympathetic, young voice for gun rights and Donald Trump’s candidacy.
Starting Wednesday, the NRA is spending $6.5 million on a spot featuring a 26-year-old lawyer named Kristi McMains, who said the pistol in her purse saved her life when a man attacked her in a parking garage.
It’s a play not just for rural voters – the NRA’s core base — but also millennials and women, groups Trump has struggled to attract. According to NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker, the ads are running on broadcast networks in Ohio, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia, as well as national cable.
McMains, looking directly into the camera, describes being attacked with an eight-inch knife before defending herself.
“Every woman has a right to own a gun if she chooses. Hillary Clinton disagrees with that,” McMains says. “Donald Trump supports my right to own a gun.”
In general, the NRA’s ads have been more about attacking Clinton than promoting Trump – some haven’t even mentioned his name. Earlier spots focused on her role in Americans’ deaths in Benghazi or cast her as an elitist hypocrite for wanting to limit gun rights while benefitting from armed protection. While most of the ads have a gun rights angle, the NRA has taken the unusual step of tying in other themes likely to appeal to those who have negative views of Clinton but aren’t totally sold on Trump.
“This election comes down to my Second Amendment rights — specifically, what happens with the Supreme Court,” McMains said in an email. “Without my gun, I would not be alive. This is a tough election for a lot of people, but I know where Donald Trump stands on the Second Amendment, and I know where Hillary Clinton stands. I stand with Trump.”
The next president’s chance to tip the balance of the Supreme Court has been a major factor in the NRA’s full-throated, early endorsement of Trump. It’s one of the only outside groups spending money on airtime in support of his candidacy; the latest buy brings the total to around $17 million.
Clinton has made preventing gun violence a centerpiece of her campaign, calling for expanded background checks, banning assault weapons and changing the law to make it easier to sue the firearms industry. She’s said she isn’t after gun ownership rights for law-abiding citizens, but the NRA and other gun rights advocates are skeptical. They point leaked audio from a private fundraiser of Clinton saying the Supreme Court “is wrong on the Second Amendment,” an apparent reference to a 2008 Supreme Court case affirming an individual right to bear arms.
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