The National Rifle Association has now endorsed three North Carolina Democrats ? Larry Kissell in the 8th Congressional District, Mike McIntyre in the 7th, and Heath Shuler in the 11th.

The news reminded me of a piece in the September issue of The American Spectator that explored conservatives’ growing disenchantment with the gun-rights group:

“I’m beside myself,” veteran conservative leader Richard Viguerie told TAS. “It’s really sad. The NRA’s leadership has become part of the problem in Washington.” While Viguerie’s tone is more in sorrow than in anger, Erick Erickson of the popular conservative blog RedState has emerged as scathing critic of the NRA, calling it “a weak little girl of an organization.”

“There are few organizations purportedly on the side of freedom that aggravate me more than the National Rifle Association,” Erickson wrote in June. “In fact, these days I cringe when I see good conservatives with their lifetime member sticker from the NRA on the back of their cars.” During the confirmation process for Elena Kagan, Curt Levey of the Committee for Justice complained to the Washington Times, “The NRA has misunderstood what the fight is about.”

What irks these conservatives is the sense that the mighty NRA — a 4 million-member, $307 million organization — has become too pragmatic in the use of its power: too willing to compromise with Democrats, too cautious in its approach to Second Amendment litigation, too slow to oppose liberal judicial nominees, and too willing to settle for a place at the table in liberal-occupied Washington.

Read more here.