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National Rifle Association prepares for Phoenix meeting

The Associated Press

PHOENIX – Members of the National Rifle Association are coming to Phoenix this month at a time when gun owners fear the administration may be out to strip them of their firearms.

President Barack Obama said in April that he has not backed off his pledge to reinstate an assault-weapons ban that expired in 2004.

But the president also acknowledged a ban on assault rifles was a tough sell politically. The priority now, he said, is to enforce existing gun laws.

Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s executive vice president, recently sent a letter to prospective members asking every “law abiding” American gun owner to come to the convention to “prove to the gun banners” that the NRA will take on “anybody who attacks our firearm freedoms.”

He also described how the “anti-gunners” control federal regulatory power.

“I think President Obama is the single best salesman for the National Rifle Association that we’ve had in several years,” said Walt Stephenson of Tucson, a lifetime NRA member who’s coming to the May 15-17 convention.

Ken Logan, a manager at Shooter’s World in Phoenix, said gun sales tripled in the months leading up to Election Day and sales of ammunition tripled or quadrupled, creating shortages.

The number of background checks submitted to the FBI as part of the gun purchasing process increased from about 3 million in the first quarter of last year to more than 3.8 million in the same period this year, an increase of more than 25 percent.

A background check doesn’t necessarily mean the sale went through, but people in the gun business say they’ve seen a spike in buying driven by gun-control worries.

“They’re pretty much buying everything and anything,” Logan said.

The NRA claims membership of about 4 million. It lobbies for gun rights and against new restrictions.

“We believe the best way to reduce violent crime in this country is to strictly enforce our existing laws,” NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said. “Anything bad regarding a firearm is illegal under current law.”

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