ABC News' Sunlen Miller and David Wright Report: Timing is everything in politics and, for Barack Obama's campaign, today's endorsement by the American Hunters and Shooters Association showed both good and bad timing.
The good news, for Obama: the support of this gunowners' rights group may help him overcome the controversy over his suggestion that small voters "cling to guns and religion" because they're "bitter."
The bad news? Today was the anniversary of the deadly Virginia Tech massacre.
“Sen. Obama will be a strong voice an unabashed voice for America's hunters and shooters and it is with great pleasure that we endorse his candidacy,” President of the Association Ray Schoenke said, citing Obama’s commitment to the traditions of gun ownership.
Schoenke said they had reached out to the Obama campaign several weeks ago to offer their support – but the announcement wasn’t made public until today. Schoenke added that the timing amid the controversy was important.
“We believe recent attacks on Sen. Obama’s stand on the 2nd amendment and his commitment to the hunting and shooting heritages are unfair.”
He said Obama’s vote for the Vitter amendment proves that Obama is committed to the 2nd amendment. The Vitter amendment prohibits the confiscation of firearms during an emergency or major disaster.
“Imagine how the citizens felt during hurricane Katrina when government agents kicked in doors to confiscate law biding citizen’s guns at a time when they needed them the most. We know Senator Obama gets it.”
Schoenke said on the other hand that Senator Clinton has “failed to grasp the importance of this critical issue to hunters and shooters and voted against this amendment, turning her back on American gun owners.”
The Republicans dismissed Obama's endorsement, and suggested the American Hunters and Shooters Association is an ersatz version of the National Rifle Association with dubious credibility among gun enthusiasts.
“Should Barack Obama be the Democrats’ nominee, he will probably be the most anti-gun general election candidate in political history," said Republican National Committee Spokesman Danny Diaz. "The AHSA’s endorsement of Obama will not provide him any credibility on the Second Amendment.”
During the Q and A, Schoenke was asked what Obama’s position was on banning hand guns generally – and referenced the DC gun ban case.
“I’m not sure I think in talking with the campaign that Senator Obama has not taken a position on the DC gun ban case,” but said that they were conformable enough with his position that he supports individual rights under the 2nd amendments to endorse him.
Today Senator Obama released a separate statement on the Virginia Tech anniversary. “Clearly, our state and federal governments have to strengthen some laws and do a better job enforcing others. But we all have a responsibility to do what we can in our own lives and communities to end this kind of senseless violence,” he said
Like his speech in the immediate aftermath of the shootings last year, Obama's statement does not include the words “gun control.”