"I went out and looked, and I couldn't believe it," she said. "The billboards said I was just like Obama, and where I'm from, that's deadly."
The billboard ads were followed by radio spots, newspaper ads and fliers mailed to homes in her district: "Maggart and Obama: We Can't Trust Either With Our Rights."
On YouTube, Chris Cox, chief of lobbying for the NRA, went after Maggart.
"We've put up ads and billboards comparing Debra Maggart to Barack Obama," Cox said. "That's because, while both say they support our Second Amendment rights, they both worked against our freedoms behind closed doors."
Maggart estimated that the NRA and other gun groups spent $155,000 on the race. She said all she could do was watch her polling numbers fall. She ended up losing the Republican primary by 16 percentage points to a candidate handpicked by the NRA, Courtney Rogers, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who had no political experience.
"They will lie about you. They will use intimidation tactics. They will use bullying tactics, and because of that, people are afraid," Maggart said.
"Why wouldn't you be afraid?"
After watching the NRA's successes on Capitol Hill and in statehouses across the nation, gun-control groups are starting to employ some of the same tactics.
Nowhere has that been more apparent than in New Hampshire, where Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte finds herself caught between two powerful forces: the NRA and Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
Ayotte was the only senator from a Northeastern state to side with the NRA.
Since the vote, the NRA and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a firearms industry trade group, have been running radio spots in New Hampshire that praise Ayotte for her stance.
"Kelly Ayotte is not just a senator, she's also a mom who cares about protecting our kids," the announcer says. "Kelly had the courage to oppose misguided gun-control laws that would not have prevented Sandy Hook."
Gun-control groups are hitting back. The mayors group, organized by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an Independent, has tapped a deep reservoir of phone and email lists to mobilize opposition to Ayotte. Protesters have trailed Ayotte to events in New Hampshire, demanding that she explain her vote.
On April 30, the daughter of the slain Sandy Hook principal confronted Ayotte at a crowded town hall meeting in Warren, N.H.
The scene was reminiscent of the way the NRA had taken over town hall meetings.
"A fair amount of what we're doing in New Hampshire is right out of the NRA playbook," said Arkadi Gerney, who was a special adviser to the mayors group before joining the Center for American Progress as a senior fellow. He and others are helping to coordinate the anti-Ayotte campaign in New Hampshire.
One of the lessons learned: Every vote in every city, county and state cannot be taken for granted.
"We're on the ground, moving people on our side," Gerney said. "You have to have people show up at the events, send letters and make the phone calls.
"It's not enough to have 99 percent of the people agree with you."
Until recently, Sen. Patrick Toomey, R-Pa., was considered a friend of the NRA's in the halls of Congress and in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania, a state that boasts one of the highest concentrations of NRA members.
The NRA had given Toomey an "A" rating for his dependable voting record and, in 2011, invited him to speak at its annual Celebration of American Values Leadership Forum.
That was before Toomey this spring joined Sens. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., and Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., to introduce legislation to expand federal background checks. Even though the measure failed, gun rights activists say Toomey crossed the "line in the sand" drawn by the NRA.
William Bachenberg, an NRA national board member who directs the organization's efforts in eastern Pennsylvania, said Toomey undercut his credibility in the gun rights community. Bachenberg said many of Toomey's supporters see the background-check proposal as a purely political move to help him win re-election in 2016 in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by nearly 1 million voters.
"I will not support him," declared Bachenberg, who owns a skeet-shooting range in the Lehigh Valley and said he was not speaking on behalf of the NRA. "A lot of shooters have been coming to the range, and they feel betrayed. When you talk about constitutional rights and an issue that is this dear to us, this is very frustrating."
John Brinson has been a friend of Toomey's for more than 20 years. But as a co-chairman of the Eastern Pennsylvania Firearms Coalition, Brinson said he sees trouble on the horizon for the senator.
"I will support Pat, but a lot of people won't. They are so angry," Brinson said. "I have a right to keep and bear arms, period. And this is the kind of thing that sets off gun owners and makes us crazy. This is not gun control, this is people control, and they are treating us like children."
Before the proposal was defeated, Toomey said he knew that the NRA would be angry.
"My approach is to do the right thing and let the chips fall where they may," he said in an interview. "I don't know what the political implications will be. I don't think anyone does."
Manchin has said he plans to revive the background-check legislation. But Toomey said he wasn't planning to be a co-sponsor this time around. A Pennsylvania poll gave Toomey his highest approval ratings ever after the legislation. Still, the senator said he was setting the issue aside.
"Senator Toomey has said a few times that the Senate has spoken on this issue. He came up six votes short," his office said in a statement. "There would have to be a change in the atmosphere to yield a different outcome. That seems unlikely in the near future."
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