Akron's Republican mayor has resigned from a national organization opposing illegal weapons after the National Rifle Association launched a mail campaign labeling him "anti-gun."
Mayor John McBeth joined Mayors Against Illegal Guns several months ago, but he announced at a borough council meeting this week that he has left the group following an NRA mailing and a flurry of phone calls from concerned constituents in early September.
McBeth said he was looking for new anti-crime ideas when he joined the 450-member association, which combats illegal gun possession and is not opposed to legal gun ownership.
"It's not an organization that's against guns. If it was, I wouldn't have joined it," McBeth said Monday. "Because of the confusion and the fact that (the membership) is being used as the continued subject of a smear campaign, I have asked the association to remove my name from their membership."
After the meeting, McBeth said he heard from eight Akron residents about the postcards and had "civil" conversations about the issue with most of them. At least one resident contacted council members, accusing McBeth of misrepresenting the borough.
The NRA's orange, oversized postcards, dated Sept. 4, urge citizens to call McBeth and tell him to quit the association. The NRA has launched similar campaigns against other mayors across the country, including John Brenner of York, who said this week that he will not end his membership.
Several of the borough's elected officials expressed concern that the NRA had targeted McBeth.
"I appreciate your courage and your innovation for trying new things," council member John Williamson said during the meeting. "It's something we should all applaud."
The bipartisan Mayors Against Illegal Guns was founded in 2006 by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The NRA postcard linked McBeth to Bloomberg's liberal policies, which are not necessarily supported by the mayors' organization. It accused the mayors' association of working to end gun show sales and opposing reform of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. McBeth called those allegations and others "blatantly false."
On its Web site, the mayors' association says its goal is to prevent criminals from obtaining guns.
"We respect the rights of law abiding citizens to own guns, and we recognize that the vast majority of gun dealers carefully follow the law. Our only interest is in fighting crime-and we are determined to win. The polarizing rhetoric of gun politics on all sides only obscures the tragic reality we see every day on our streets: violent criminals with easy access to firearms."