Gun-control advocates will press for expanded federal background checks for gun buyers with an ad campaign aimed at Maine Sen. Susan Collins that may air as soon as Thursday.

Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group funded by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, also plans news conferences in about 100 cities Thursday as part of a “National Day to Demand Action.”

Portland Mayor Michael Brennan will appear at 10 a.m. at City Hall with former Lewiston Mayor Larry Gilbert. Augusta Mayor William Stokes and Hallowell Mayor Charlotte Warren will appear at 11:30 a.m. at the University of Maine at Augusta.

The Bloomberg group’s ad buy, valued at $12 million nationwide, is designed to pressure Collins to support tighter background checks for gun purchases, including private sales and at gun shows.

In 2007, Collins voted in favor of instant background checks for gun purchases.

In a prepared statement Wednesday evening, her spokesman, Kevin Kelley, said Collins “would support carefully crafted language to strengthen background checks with improved state reporting to the database of felons and those who have been adjudicated by a court as having a serious mental illness that would pose a danger to the individual or others.”

Collins has had a cool relationship with the National Rifle Association. She received nearly $20,000 in campaign donations from the NRA’s political action committee from 1996 to 2002, but has not received any contributions since then.

Earlier this year, the NRA gave Collins a C+ rating, low for a Republican.

Collins has been under pressure recently from both sides in the debate. In February, the NRA bought a full-page ad in the Bangor Daily News urging voters to lobby her and independent Sen. Angus King of Maine to reject gun-control measures.

The next day, Organizing for Action, an advocacy group that developed from President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, bought an ad on the newspaper’s website asking constituents to ask Collins to support Obama’s gun-control plans.

The two Bloomberg-backed ads, “Responsible” and “Family,” feature a man with a shotgun, a camouflage hat and a flannel shirt sitting on the back of a pickup truck.

“I believe in the Second Amendment and I’ll fight to protect it,” he says in one ad. “But with rights come responsibilities. That’s why I support comprehensive background checks so criminals and the dangerously mentally ill can’t buy guns.”

Ben Schulz, local sales manager at WGME-TV in Portland, said Wednesday that the station hadn’t received the Bloomberg buy but expected it to come in Thursday. He said the ads are already airing in 10 television markets.

Bloomberg often cites strong public support for expanded background checks: a poll in January by the Pew Research Center showed 85 percent of respondents favoring them.

The NRA says expanded background checks wouldn’t be effective.

Andrew Arulanandam, an NRA spokesman, said the association won’t match Bloomberg on TV or radio, but will include Maine in a special round of mailers and phone calls denouncing certain gun-control “schemes” that are being floated nationally.

“We cannot match Bloomberg dollar for dollar, but we don’t have to,” Arulanandam said. “Our strongest asset is our membership.”

State House Bureau Writer Michael Shepherd can be reached at 370-7652 or [email protected]
Twitter: @mikeshepherdme

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