Republican lawmakers have kept their distance from the National Rifle Association during the debate over gun laws in Congress, even as many have echoed the powerful lobby’s arguments against President Obama’s agenda.

While polls suggest more than half the country approves of the NRA, the aggressive approach by its outspoken vice president, Wayne LaPierre, has led to some criticism of the group — and claims by some Republicans that they could be hurt by association.

“The NRA has made it more difficult for members to vote with them based on their statements,” said former Rep. Chris Shays (R-Conn.), a centrist Republican who received an “F” rating from the group when he served in the House. “They look so stubborn, so out of touch with the mood of the country.”

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