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For decades, the National Rifle Association has doled out letter grades to members of Congress based on how the organization rates their allegiance to the gun lobby's interpretation of their votes on firearms legislation. Check out the NRA's report card and you'll find it skewed toward A's and F's. Only 11 percent of both houses get B's, C's or D's. Gun Owners of America, the group that thinks the NRA is a sell-out, generally does the same, but it gives more low grades. For instance, Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana gets an "A" from the NRA and an "F" from the GOA.

Now, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, co-chaired by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is pouring millions into a campaign for implementing stricter gun regulations, plans to issue report cards of its own:

"We're asked many times daily where people's elected representatives are on gun laws, and we intend to tell them, in detail," [MAIG director Mark] Glaze told CNN.

The group will spend $1 million on cable television ads in the Washington area and in 10 states.

The ad, which is first being aired Tuesday, features Neil Heslin. His son, Jesse Lewis, was murdered in the 12/14 elementary school slaughter in Newtown, Connecticut.
The ad campaign's targets? Five Democrats and seven Republicans:

Saxby Chambliss, R-Georgia (NRA=A+; GOA=A-)
Dan Coats, R-Indiana (NRA=C+; GOA=C)
Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana NRA=A; GOA=C-)
Jeff Flake, R-Arizona (NRA=A; GOA=A)
Kay Hagen, D-North Carolina (NRA=F; GOA=F)
Heidi Heitkamp, D-North Dakota (NRA=AQ* A freshman, she has no voting record yet)
Dean Heller, R-Nevada (NRA=A; GOA=A)
Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia (NRA=A; GOA=A-)
Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana (NRA=C; GOA=F)
Rob Portman, R-Ohio (NRA=A; GOA=B)
Mark Pryor, D-Arkansas (NRA=C-; GOA=F)
Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania (NRA=A; GOA=A-)

Chambliss is retiring after his current term. Hagen, Landrieu and Pryor are all up for reelection in 2014.

While the ads may exert pressure on at least some of the Democrats on the target list, it's hard to see anything budging the Republicans. One exception could be Toomey. He has replaced Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma as the Democrats' great conservative hope in negotiations on a bill to require background checks for private gun sales. The Oklahoma senator refused to compromise over record-keeping in the proposed bill, arguing that it would lead to a gun registry. A MAIG ad also airing this week will focus on Toomey's past statements in support of the idea of universal background checks and urging voters to push him on the proposal.

The overall plan is that the MAIG report cards could help an incumbent who gets a good grade by backing stricter gun regulations. A poor grade "would publicly shame a politician who votes against popular ideas such as universal background checks," writes Phil Rucker. That's the NRA's playbook in the opposite direction. It's proved quite effective in the past, with vulnerable incumbents intimidated into not crossing the gun lobby for fear of slicing off a percentage of voters they might have otherwise won. The question is whether MAIG has the stamina and relentlessness and can build the political clout necessary to turn failing grades for incumbents firmly in the gun-rights camp into failures at the polls.

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Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Tue Apr 09, 2013 at 10:48 AM PDT.

Also republished by Repeal or Amend the Second Amendment (RASA), Shut Down the NRA, and Daily Kos.

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