The National Rifle Association took aim at Mayor Joe Riley earlier this month, sending postcards to NRA members in Charleston that criticized him for being a member of the organization Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

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The NRA urged its members to contact the mayor and "help him make the right choice between protecting your Second Amendment rights or continuing to be associated with those who actively oppose and undermine your firearm freedom."

Riley said Thursday that he's seen the postcard, and has received a few phone calls from people who received it, but he supports Mayors Against Illegal Guns and has no plans to withdraw from the group.

"We're against illegal guns, so if anyone is opposed to our position, then they are in favor of illegal guns," Riley said.

"I know it's what my constituents want me to do, to make it harder for criminals to get guns and close loopholes that make it easy for criminals to get guns," he said.

About 450 mayors nationwide have joined the group, including in South Carolina the mayors of Charleston, Columbia and Sumter.

The NRA describes the organization as an anti-gun group "funded by activist anti-gun billionaire and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg."

"If it was just going after illegal guns, no one takes a back seat to the NRA in supporting that effort," said Andrew Arulanandam, director of public affairs for the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action.

The NRA has criticized the mayors organization for opposing federal legislation that would have allowed state-issued permits to carry concealed weapons valid in other states.

"The people who typically obtain concealed-carry permits are law-abiding people," Arulanandam said.

The NRA also criticized the Mayors Against Illegal Guns group for pushing for background checks on all sales at gun shows, and for advocating a change

in federal law that could give cities more access to information used to trace firearms. New York City in 2006 sued 15 gun stores, including two in the Charleston area, for allegedly allowing guns to be sold illegally.

Gun store owners in response sued Bloomberg for defamation. The cases are pending.

Riley has been an outspoken advocate of tougher gun laws in South Carolina.

Along with local police chiefs, Riley has been pushing to expand state laws governing the illegal use and possession of firearms to include military-style rifles.

Riley also has proposed that anyone convicted of a crime carrying a sentence of two years or more should be prohibited from possessing these guns.

Arulanandam said the postcards criticizing Riley are part of a national campaign targeting all mayors who have joined Mayors Against Illegal Guns. He said some mayors have left the group as a result.

Reach David Slade at 937-5552 or dslade@postand