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Group aiming for gun veto intensifies battle; fights suit in Colorado

The Colorado-based gun group that has been waging an email campaign against a Florida bill that would help prevent some people who are mentally ill from buying guns has come under fire in its home state.

The National Association for Gun Rights (NAGR) and its affiliate, the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO), both based in Colorado, have been named in a lawsuit over the misuse of an engagement photo of a gay New Jersey couple kissing in political attack ads.

The Southern Poverty Law Center in May added the names of the gun groups plus Dudley Brown (executive vice president of the National Association for Gun Rights and the executive director of the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners group) and and NAGR's Lucius O’Dell and Andrew Brown to a suit filed in the U.S. District Court in Denver. The lawsuit originally named just the anti-gay organization, Public Advocate of the United States.

The suit states that the gun groups were involved in producing mailers using the picture of Brian Edwards and Thomas Privitere, who were "shocked" to learn their engagement picture was being used to denigrate the "family views" of two Republican legislators.

Dudley Brown’s name has come up in Florida of late because of his email blast to gun owners urging them to tell Gov. Rick Scott to veto HB 1355.

In an odd twist, the issue pits the Colorado gun groups against the the National Rifle Association.  Marion Hammer, the former president of the National Rifle Association and Florida’s most powerful gun rights lobbyist, backs the bill and has asked her members to show their support.

She said in a statement on Thursday that "The latest tactic is that NAGR is now apparently making phone calls to lists of gun owners with a scripted message asking people to call the Governor and ask him not to sign HB-1355.  I would call this is a desperation tactic designed to confuse and mislead well-meaning people.  Our members who called us about receiving those calls were not fooled."

The NAGR, in turn, writes its members that  “The National Rifle Association is continuing to stab Florida gun owners in the back by supporting anti-gun HB-1355.”

HB 1355 is the only legislation to pass the Florida Legislature this session. The bill would add the names of those who volunteer for treatment because they are a danger to themselves or others to a database retailers consult to see if someone’s able to purchase a gun. They can later seek to have their name removed from the list.Currently, people who are involuntarily “Baker Acted” or committed to treatment are prohibited from purchasing a firearm in Florida, but those who volunteer to seek treatment are not.

Scott, who has until July 2 to sign or veto the measure, has already received more than 17,000 emails and nearly 3,000 phone calls in opposition to the bill as of last week.  It’s not clear how many were prompted by Brown’s alerts. Scott has only said he’s “reviewing” the bill.

Brown's emails also ask supporters to “consider chipping in $10 or $20” to help fight for pro-gun legislation. The National Association for Gun Rights states it's a nonprofit, but the IRS revoked the tax exempt status of Brown's Rocky Mountain gun group because it failed to file tax forms for three consecutive years.

In a press statement, the NAGR states it has “rallied its more than 185,000 members and supporters in Florida to urge Governor Scott to veto HB-1355.”

NAGR spokesman Danielle Thompson said the grassroots organization “sees this bill infringing on the rights of law-abiding citizens to bear arms. These people aren’t criminals.”

Hammer has told her supporters "We worked hard to protect the rights of the mentally ill as well as the rights of those who might fall victim to dangerous people with mental illnesses."