During the 1990s, after the Clinton Gun Ban, gun rights organizations enjoyed unprecedented power and influence.
They were so effective that most smart Democrats simply quit talking about guns. In fact, if you look at many of the candidates elected last year (including Virginia Senator Jim Webb), many of them employed a bit of jujitsu by running on a pro-gun platform.
Today, John McCain will speak to the National Rifle Association (NRA), and, according to this story, he plans to cleverly reference Rudy Giuliani's past depiction of the group as "extremists," in his remarks:
"My friends, gun owners are not extremists; you are the core of modern America," McCain said in the prepared remarks. "The Second Amendment is unique in the world and at the core of our constitutional freedoms. It guarantees an individual right to keep and bear arms. To argue anything else is to reject the clear meaning of our founding fathers.
"But the clear meaning of the Second Amendment has not stopped those who want to punish firearms owners -- and those who make and sell firearms -- for the actions of criminals," McCain said.
McCain's campaign has also emailed out a press release of positive quotes from prominent gun supporters, touting the Arizona Senators pro-gun position. The quotes include one from former NRA executive director for the Institute of Legislative Action James Jay Baker, who noted McCain's 95 percent pro-gun-owner record.
McCain is also happy to tell us the "Anti-Gun Brady Campaign" has given him a 17 percent rating.
But, the question is: How important is the gun vote in 2008?
Many observers have noted that as a political phenomenon, McCain may have missed his date with destiny in 2000. Could this be another example of an issue that might have helped McCain more in the past than it will today?
No doubt the gun issue was hotter in the late 90s than it is today. So only time will tell if having the support of pro-gun groups will pack the same punch that it once did. As for John McCain, he's hoping the issue still has a few rounds left in the barrel ...
Update: Here's some quick video of McCain talking to Code Pink protesters at the NRA conference.