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The National Rifle Association is flexing its political muscle in the San Diego County sheriff’s race with an e-mail blast that urges recipients to vote against Sheriff Bill Gore because he “continues to trample” on gun owners’ rights.

The e-mail, sent to 20,000 local NRA members and then forwarded by Jay LaSuer‘s campaign to another 80,000 people, attacks Gore for granting concealed weapons permits only to campaign contributors and friends while denying others.

“Gore’s anti-gun views apparently have no boundaries, as he has even denied permits to American heroes who have served in our nation’s armed forces. Just whose side is this guy on?” said the e-mail, signed by Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA’s lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action in Fairfax, Va.

Gore’s campaign spokesman, Tom Shepard, said the application of the war veteran has not been denied. It was filed just two weeks ago and is still pending. The process takes 90 days.

Shepard said when Gore saw the NRA’s e-mail yesterday, he immediately knew it was referring to an application submitted by an Iraq war veteran who believes his life is in danger from Iraqi terrorists who have identified him and want to harm him.

“The information in that e-mail is misleading at best and completely inaccurate at worst,” Shepard said, later adding: “San Diego County issues more (concealed weapons) permits than Orange County or LA County, both of which are larger populations. It’s not like we have some extremely restricted policy here.”

The NRA is more active in Congressional politics, but occasionally delves into the local political scene and has endorsed in several California sheriff’s races this season. The association has not endorsed either of Gore’s opponents, LaSuer or Jim Duffy. Both have received top ratings.

LaSuer said he’s not bothered that they haven’t issued an endorsement — yet. “I called up and asked them about that and they say they’re not done yet,” LaSuer said.

Duffy couldn’t immediately be reached for comment, nor could the NRA’s Cox.

— KELLY THORNTON

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