The National Rifle Association cast its opposition to Obama’s plans as “the fight of the century” in a letter circulated at the 35th annual Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade Show and Conference, known in the trade as “the SHOT show,” in Las Vegas.

“I warned you this day was coming and now it’s here,” Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s fiery executive vice president, wrote in a fund-raising letter to the group’s 4 million members. “It’s not about protecting your children. It’s not about stopping crime. It’s about banning your guns … PERIOD!”

The letter reflected the NRA’s tough, no-holds-barred campaign against tighter restrictions on weapons and echoed a sharp video released by the group that calls Obama an “elitist hypocrite” for having the Secret Service protect his two daughters at school while saying that he is “skeptical” about armed guards in all schools.

The SHOT show draws more than 60,000 gun enthusiasts, dealers and  manufacturers to see the latest weapons and accoutrements. The convention floor contains 12 miles of firearms displays, mostly military-style assault rifles, and many booths display the kinds of high-capacity clips the administration wants to ban.

On Wednesday, the brass from the NRA and other gun-advocacy groups spent the day in closed-door sessions planning a response to Obama’s proposals, according to people close to the groups who spoke on condition their names not be used in describing internal deliberations.

LaPierre accused Vice President Biden of lying when he said there would be an open discussion before the administration developed its plan to restrict access to certain weapons and clips.

“The NRA sat in on a White House meeting that was sold to the public as an ‘open discussion’ about how to improve school safety.” LaPierre wrote. “But that was a dirty lie. They didn’t listen to gun owners’ concerns…they didn’t consider any real solutions on how we can keep our kids safe. Instead Barack Obama, Joe Biden and their gun ban allies in Congress only want to BLAME you, VILIFY you, BULLY you, and STRIP you of your Second Amendment freedoms.”

LaPierre warned his members about Obama’s plan, saying: “Right now, they’re steamrolling ahead with legislation that would ban your guns, register your ammunition purchases and even force you to register the firearms you already own with Obama’s anti-gun bureaucrats.”

The president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which is sponsoring the SHOT show, said in a dinner address to more than 1,000 attendees last night that the huge multibillion gun industry is misunderstood.

“You didn’t cause the monstrous crimes in Newtown,” said Steve Sanetti, the CEO and president of the foundation. “And neither did we.” In his speech, he specifically addressed military assault rifles, which the NSSF has rebranded “modern sporting rifles.”

“Millions of law-abiding sportsmen across the nation own them, and when those misinformed about firearms say that 'no sportsman has any need for a gun that is only used to kill people,' they are in effect calling millions of American sportsmen murderers---not exactly the way to promote civil discourse,” said Sanetti.

LaPierre’s letter took a tougher line.

“The media has been on a vicious tirade to slander and intimidate you, me and our fellow NRA members, “ LaPierre wrote. “We’ve been called terrorists and worse. They’ve blamed us and our Second Amendment freedoms for the actions of violent criminals and madmen. Our lives have been threatened.”

Several gun industry executives now have 24-hour armed guards since the Newtown shootings, according to firearms industry officials interviewed here.

“But I won’t let these brutal and bitterly personal attacks on you and me go unchallenged. I’ll fight freedom’s enemies. I’ll fight to make our schools safer. And I’ll fight for your fundamental right to self-defense and your sacred Right to Keep and Bear Arms,” LaPierre wrote. “…I need you in our corner TODAY.”

Related links:
How NRA’s true believers converted a marksmanship group into a mighty gun lobby 
Transcript: President Obama announces gun-control actions
Remembering the victims of Newtown: Their stories