In a pre-emptive strike against anti-gun leaders in the new Congress, the National Rifle Association is planning to distribute a graphic brochure that drafts its Second Amendment mission in alarmist terms.
"Freedom in Peril," a rough copy of which was leaked onto the Internet last Friday, takes aim at the enemies of gun rights: from New Orleans policemen who confiscated weapons during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to "one-world extremists" of the United Nations, animal-rights "terrorists," and illegal alien gangs.
It also takes shots, with unflattering caricatures and descriptions, at personalities like Katie Couric, Rosie O'Donnell and Michael Moore and politicians such as Speaker-in-waiting Nancy Pelosi and Sens. John Kerry and Hillary Clinton.
"Second Amendment freedom today stands naked in the path of a marching axis of adversaries far darker and more dangerous than gun owners have ever known," reads the foreword to the brochure. "Acting alone and in shadowy coalitions, these enemies of freedom are preparing for a profound and foreboding confrontation in which they will not make the mistakes of their predecessors. We'd better be ready."
NRA leaders Wayne LaPierre and Chris W. Cox co-write a letter in which they assert that America's anti-gun forces will disguise their true aims under the cloak of anti-terrorism, describing a scenario in which gun owners will be disarmed through legislation.
"History teaches us that their assault will be precipitated by a high-profile criminal act, like an L.A. riot, a D.C. sniper or a schoolyard shooting. All it takes is a rare, tragic anomaly to roll out a blood-red carpet for the gun-ban crowd."
The work also contains dramatic illustrations of an armed man defending his home from armed gangs roaming the streets in the aftermath of Katrina-like catastrophes, hairy-legged female animal-rights activists marching alongside snarling dogs and scowling pigs and multicultural gang members flashing gang signs. The media is not spared -- television news reporters are portrayed as a giant malevolent head and a vulture clutching a microphone.
Last Friday, soon after a copy leaked onto Wonkette.com, liberal and conservative bloggers heatedly debated whether the brochure was actually a hoax.
"I didn't know whether it was a hoax or authentic when I first posted about it," says Xeni Jardin, who runs the popular Boingboing.net blog. "A bunch of readers wrote back, saying 'How dare you do that? I'm a member of the NRA and there is no way that's real.' So I thought maybe this is a hoax. I thought it was so crazy that it's got to be a hoax."
The NRA confirms that "Freedom in Peril" is the real thing, but that it's simply an unedited draft version. "What you see on the Internet is just in draft form," spokesman Andrew Arulanandam told ABCNEWS.com. "We have not even signed off on it yet. It was stolen during production."
Arulanandam declined to comment specifically on any upcoming editorial revisions, publishing schedules or distribution plans for the brochure. He did, however, emphasize that editorial changes will not be prompted by some of the outraged reactions circulating around the Internet.
After discussions with NRA members and fellow gun owners, Jardin is convinced that the brochure is a fund-raising mailer. "When an organization is trying to reach in your pocket, sometimes they will resort to tactics that feel more exploitative," she says. "I support the right to bear arms but it didn't inspire me to send them a check."