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Montana gun exec's support of Obama prompts uproar

Matt Gouras

The board of directors for a small Montana gun manufacturer asked the company's president to resign after word that he supports Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama led to calls on pro-gun Web sites to boycott the company's products.

Dan Cooper, who co-founded Cooper Firearms of Montana, Inc., could not be reached for comment Friday. But he told USA Today on Thursday that he had resigned his post to protect the company's employees.

"When the Internet anger turned on these innocent people, I felt it was important to distance myself from the company so as not to cause any further harm," he said in a statement to the newspaper.

In a statement posted on its Web site early Friday but later removed, the Stevensville company said its employees, shareholders and board of directors do not share Cooper's political views. The executive was quoted in recent news stories as an Obama supporter, and has donated money to the campaign.

Word of Cooper's support for Obama spread on pro-gun Web sites, with some posting messages calling for a boycott of Cooper Firearms and others labeling the gun executive a traitor.

In its statement, the company said the board of directors asked Cooper to resign after it appeared the uproar over his support for Obama could affect employees and shareholders.

"Although we all believe everyone has a right to vote and donate as they see fit, it has become apparent that the fallout may affect more than just Mr. Cooper," the company said.

"We firmly believe Dan stands by the (Second) Amendment," it said.

The situation prompted Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer to briefly interrupt an elk hunting trip to call Cooper on Thursday and offer his assistance. Schweitzer, a Democrat, also supports Obama.

"I said, 'Look, I will support Cooper Firearms in their sales promotions. I will go to vendors. I will go state to state. I will help you sell the firearms, if you think the governor of Montana can help you close some deals,'" Schweitzer said.

The governor said Friday he will do what he can to help the company and its 40 employees overcome any lingering backlash.

A receptionist at Cooper Firearms refused to answer questions about the decision, and said there was no one available who could. She also said she would not release contact information for the board of directors.

Both presidential candidates proclaim their respect for gun rights, but Obama says it is possible to support the Second Amendment along with "commonsense gun laws so that we don't have kids being shot on the streets of cities like Chicago."

As a U.S. senator, Obama voted to allow civil lawsuits against gun-makers and dealers. As an Illinois state lawmaker, he also supported a ban on all forms of semiautomatic weapons and tighter state restrictions generally on firearms.

McCain won the endorsement of the National Rifle Association, despite his support for requiring background checks at gun shows. He also voted to shield gun-makers and dealers from civil suits, and against a ban on assault-type weapons.

NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said the controversy shows gun owners have a problem with Obama.

"I think the decision to terminate is an indicator of the level of distrust that gun owners have with Barack Obama," Arulanandam said.


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The Associated Press