The National Rifle Association has opened a new membership drive to build its ranks for a "winner-take-all" shootout with liberals like President Obama and Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton over the future of gun ownership and the Second Amendment.

"Unless you and I stand shoulder-to-shoulder in this winner-take-all fight, it's only a matter of time before we lose our guns, our heritage, and our freedom," wrote Wayne LaPierre, the NRA executive vice president in a new membership letter.

By joining, he urged potential members, "you're drawing a line in the sand, making it clear to politicians across America that you're not going to stand by while extremists trample our individual liberties."

The membership drive comes at the beginning of a crucial election year in which many Democrats believe that the public is more open to gun control.

It also comes as Obama is set this week to push some minor efforts to expand the group of gun sellers required to register as a licenced dealer, a potential step toward national gun registration, according to critics.

While NRA foes often claim that pro-Second Amendment politicians are bought off by the gun lobby's political contributions, it is actually the power of a big and active membership that votes which gives the Virginia-based organization its power, not money.

And with Democrats pushing for more gun control, building membership in the NRA is likely to be easy.

In his letter, LaPierre is very specific about what he sees as the looming threats to America's gun freedoms. The bottom line, he wrote: "Right now we're fighting gun-hating politicians whose agenda includes gun bans, ammo bans, federal gun-owner licensing, gun registration, and even prison time for you if you pass down or sell any banned firearm to a family member or friend."

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at