- Associated Press - Thursday, October 7, 2010

NEW CASTLE, Del. (AP) — Republican Christine O'Donnell received the endorsement of a newly formed gun-rights group Thursday and vowed to safeguard the right to own guns if elected to the Senate.

Ms. O'Donnell spoke at a news conference hosted by Sportsmen for O'Donnell, a group of gun-rights activists urging Delawareans to vote for Ms. O'Donnell in November over her Democratic opponent, New Castle County Executive Chris Coons.

“I strongly believe that regardless of circumstance, regardless of income, every Delawarean, every citizen, has a constitutional right to self-defense, and our leaders in Washington and our leaders in Dover seem to have forgotten that,” Ms. O'Donnell said.

Sportsmen for O'Donnell Chairman John Thompson said Ms. O'Donnell would be a strong voice in Washington for hunters, competitive shooters and law-abiding gun owners.

“She will oppose efforts, by Democrats primarily, to restrict the right to keep and bear arms as protected by the Second Amendment,” he added.

Mr. Thompson noted that under Mr. Coons‘ leadership, a bill was introduced in the state Legislature last year that would have allowed New Castle County to regulate firearms on property owned or leased by the county. Under a pre-emption law dating to the 1980s, local governments in Delaware are prohibited from establishing their own gun control laws, Mr. Thompson said.

The bill, introduced by retired New Castle County police Officer Larry Mitchell, a Democrat, did not make it out of committee.

Coons spokesman Daniel McElhatton said that he was not familiar with the county gun bill but that Mr. Coons strongly supports gun ownership for sports and self-defense. Mr. Coons also believes that current federal laws on gun ownership should be enforced and that further regulations are not necessary, Mr. McElhatton added.

Ms. O'Donnell and members of the sportsmen group said they were concerned, among other things, with an attempt by the United Nations to negotiate a legally binding treaty aimed at regulating the global arms trade to help prevent the illegal transfer of guns.

“Especially on this U.N. treaty, trying to ban the small arms worldwide, that’s very important, and a lot of people aren’t really aware of that, trying to come in the back door for us,” said Dan Watson, Kent County chairman for Sportsmen for O'Donnell.

The U.N. General Assembly decided last year to hold a conference in 2012 to draft an arms trade treaty. It also authorized four preparatory conferences, the first of which was held this summer.

Argentina’s U.N. ambassador, Roberto Garcia Moritan, who is leading the preparatory process, has said the treaty would not hinder the right to produce, export or import arms. He said, rather, that it was aimed at ensuring common international import and export standards to prevent illegal trafficking.