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Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) released a new ad Thursday, criticizing the NRA as a “special interest group” that no longer represents the interests of most American gun owners.

“West Virginia, you know me, I haven’t changed. And you know I’ve always fought for our gun rights,” Manchin says in the ad. “I believe that we can protect the Second Amendment and make our community safer. I think most law-abiding gun owners agree with me.” The ad then urges West Virginians to call the NRA and ask them to support expanding gun sale background checks.

Manchin’s ad comes just a week after the NRA released an ad of its own attacking Manchin for joining with Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) in their failed gun reform push. As a result of that attempt to strengthen gun laws, Manchin’s prized “A” rating from the NRA is sure to be downgraded.

In response to that ad Manchin said, “The Washington NRA could spend one hundred million dollars on ads against me; it still won’t make what they say true. If they were honest with their members they would see that my bill not only protects Second Amendment rights, it enhances and strengthens them.” He continued, “Unfortunately, the NRA leadership in Washington has lost its way and is more concerned about political power than gun rights and gun safety. I am the same proud gun owner and NRA member that I have always been and I believe that criminal and mental background checks are a common-sense approach to protect our neighbors and children without infringing on our Second Amendment rights. I think most NRA members agree with me.”

Manchin’s decision to run an ad is unusual, given that he doesn’t face re-election until 2018. But for him, spending money on this gun reform ad war isn’t about votes — it’s about creating a template for other pro-gun reform candidates to fend off NRA attacks. Manchin likely hopes that his anti-NRA ad will inspire other groups to speak out against the gun lobby, turning the tables on the NRA and its political operation.

As he said in the ad released on Thursday: “I’m a lifetime NRA member, but I don’t walk in lockstep with NRA’s Washington leadership, this administration, or any special interest group.”

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