It’s Obama over Clinton for Pennsylvania Gun Owners

A key gun rights group could help Obama win votes in Pennsylvania.

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Gun owners in Pennsylvania, which has the highest per capita National Rifle Association membership in the nation, could provide Sen. Barack Obama with a key inroad to rural white voters who have so far backed Sen. Hillary Clinton, according to gun advocates. "The gun vote matters," says Ray Schoenke, founding president of the American Hunters and Shooters Association. And in Pennsylvania, he says, gun owners who follow key Washington legislation aimed at limiting ownership are moving in Obama's direction because of his support of past legislation to prohibit the use of federal money to confiscate weapons during a disaster like Hurricane Katrina. It's the only major difference on gun positions between Obama and Clinton, according to gun advocates, but it's enough for groups like Schoenke's to give the Illinois senator a passing grade. Schoenke, whose group takes a moderate approach to guns, such as endorsing gun show background checks, says Obama's support for the legislation suggests that the senator is high on individual rights. He also says the issue could be a key one in Pennsylvania, where Obama is chipping away at Clinton's lead. Schoenke's positive words for Obama are significant: In 2006, he backed Claire McCaskill in Missouri and her Senate victory was credited in part to the pro-gun vote, despite the NRA's opposition. Schoenke has also been fired on by the NRA for bending on issues the NRA is firm on and for donating to Democrats and even the Brady Campaign.