In his quest for the Republican nomination for president, Mitt Romney faced off against one rival who carries a pistol while jogging and another who stopped for target practice on the campaign trail.
Romney, however, has had trouble demonstrating familiarity with hunting and firearms. His sometimes tenuous relationship with gun owners, which will be in the spotlight when he addresses the National Rifle Association Friday at its convention in St. Louis, reflects a theme that has long nagged at Romney's candidacy.
While he cultivated an heir of inevitability in the GOP race, Romney has not inspired much enthusiasm among grassroots conservatives. Also, he has found it difficult to shake the perception that some of his views are carefully calibrated for the moment.
The contrast may be particularly acute among NRA members who vastly prefer Romney to the Democratic incumbent but look warily at his time as governor of Massachusetts, his support for certain gun control measures and his sometimes half-cocked attempts to describe himself as an outdoorsman.
At times, Romney has boasted of his independence from the NRA and once vowed that he would not "chip away" at tough gun laws in Massachusetts.
Supporters urge Romney to simply be himself, that the former venture capitalist and Harvard Business School graduate need not reinvent himself to energize the Republican base. Romney may already be following that strategy when it comes to his hunting experience, which he has been underplaying - rather than overplaying, as he was criticized for doing in 2008.
However, that pivot may not be enough to win over gun advocates who populate one of the nation's most influential special interest groups. As many NRA members see it, Romney is just not one of them.
"He's not a sportsman. He's not a gun guy," said Ray Kohout, a lifetime NRA member and principal of Heizer Firearms, a pistol manufacturer in St. Louis. "He's trying to be one, and he'll try to be one at the NRA convention, but that's just not his real person."
Much of the criticism of Romney's stance on gun issues stems from his political career in Massachusetts, one of the nation's most liberal states.
While running against Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy in 1994, Romney supported the Brady Bill, which instituted background checks on gun purchases, and a federal assault weapons ban.
"That's not going to make me the hero of the NRA," Romney said at the time.
While running for governor in 2002, Romney said, "We do have tough gun laws in Massachusetts. I support them. I won't chip away at them."
Romney's tenure as governor, from 2003 to 2007, provided more fodder for critics. But opponents have, at times, taken liberties with his record.
It's true that in 2004 Romney signed a state assault weapons ban bill, declaring the firearms "instruments of destruction with the sole purpose of hunting down and killing people."
But the gun lobby actually supported the bill because it contained provisions seen as friendly to gun owners, such as creating a process to appeal the denial of a firearms permit.
Romney also ushered in lower-profile changes such as free replacements for individuals who misplaced their gun permits and changing the size of the actual firearms license so that it could be carried more easily.
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