The National Rifle Association’s annual meeting kicked off yesterday in St. Louis and Mitt Romney was there trying to build up his pro-gun credentials in front of an audience that had every right to be skeptical.

As expected, Romney used the opportunity to distract from his own record on firearms by talking about the Presidents “assault” on gun rights while helping to fuel the latest gun-related conspiracy theory about President Obama. It case you haven’t heard it, it goes something like this: we know the President hasn’t done anything we’d consider anti-gun YET – but just wait until his second term!

This is the same line of attack NRA President Wayne LaPierre has been using in an attempt to convince Americans that President Obama has a secret plan to take your guns away after the election. LaPierre claims there is “a massive Obama conspiracy to deceive voters and hide his true intentions to destroy the Second Amendment in our country”.

It’s also a similar attack to the one they used back in 2008 when the NRA actively campaigned against then-candidate Obama, falsely claiming he planned “to ban use of firearms for home defense, ban possession and manufacture of handguns, close 90 percent of gun shops and ban hunting ammunition.”

None of this was true. And none of these things actually happened as they predicted. And four years later they are trying to pull the same crap again.

As a kid I learned to shoot from NRA instructors, I participated in NRA shooting competitions and I proudly displayed the targets and awards on my bedroom wall. I learned to respect firearms, and how to properly handle them, thanks to programs sponsored by the NRA. The NRA does a lot of good things, and they definitely have place and a purpose in a lot of Americans’ lives. But their political arm has gone completely off the fucking rails.

The NRA has every right to support pro-gun positions, legislation and candidates. But do they really think they can just make things up? LaPierre has said so many crazy things over the years that his integrity, and possibly his sanity, are already in doubt. And now Romney is going to hitch his wagon to that crazy train?

Republicans, it seems, and being forced into the position of contriving conspiracy theories about President Obama’s secret anti-gun plans because there is nothing in his actual record they can use against him on gun issues. And it shows they are getting desperate.

With an improving economy and with women voters abandoning the GOP in droves, the Right is desperately looking for some issue on which they can beat Obama. I’m sorry to be the one to tell you guys, but gun rights won’t be that issue this year.

Obama may not be the pro-gun dream candidate the NRA is looking for, but he certainly hasn’t shown himself to be their enemy either. Unfortunately for Republicans hoping to get a big turnout from the single-issue gun rights voters this fall, their candidate may be even worse.

Romney has taken to occasionally talking up his own gun rights “credentials”, but as Governor Ted Strickland pointed out yesterday in a piece at Politico, “That dog won’t hunt”. That’s because Romney’s record on gun rights is pretty week.

As Strickland, a pro-gun Democrat with an A rating from the NRA, points out, Governor Romney lied about being endorsed by the NRA and he “quadrupled fees on Massachusetts gun owners, making it harder for folks to get a license to carry their firearms.” And when running for Senate against Ted Kennedy, Romney outright said: “I don’t line up with the NRA.”

And yet, here Romney is, talking to the NRA about his record on gun rights and helping to spread false rumors about the President’s intentions.

The NRA convention is a must-do event for Republican presidential candidates, and there’s no way he really could have skipped it. But like so many other things Romney does, his attempt to convince gun rights activists that he’s their guy comes across as insincere, dishonest and kind of hollow.

The whole thing reminds me of a sketch from Saturday Night Live last week where Romney “claimed to interested in things that we know he is not interested in”. It kind of makes me wonder how many people at the NRA convention were watching Romney and holding themselves back from yelling “We don’t believe you!”.