Amid some confusion over his positions on gun control, Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain plans to tell a National Rifle Association meeting Friday that he still supports closing the gun show loophole. "He will reiterate his support for background checks at gun shows," said a campaign spokeswoman. Groups opposed to McCain have been playing up comments from the senator following the Virginia Tech shootings that the nation doesn't need any more gun control laws. Associates, however, say that strong support of the Second Amendment does not clash with McCain's long-standing support for criminal background checks at gun shows where dealers can sell weapons without requiring instant background checks like more traditional stores that sell handguns. McCain's comments will likely lead to some grumbling among the NRA crowd, but organization officials say that McCain is a better supporter of the Second Amendment than either of the Democratic presidential candidates.
When he arrives, he will be met with a newspaper ad--seen above--from the pro- Barack Obama group American Hunters and Shooters Association. The small group backs limits on purchases and has been at war with the far larger NRA. The ad says that McCain was for closing the gun show loophole "before he was against it," but McCain officials say that charge is false and built on wrong claims that his rejection of gun control laws following the Virginia Tech massacre was a repudiation of his continued support for background checks at gun shows. Ray Schoenke, president of American Hunters, told Whispers this morning that he is pleased to hear that McCain still supports closing the gun show loophole but wants to "keep his feet to the fire" on the issue. "We welcome that," he said, though added that he felt "Obama is more in tune with American hunters and shooters."