To hear Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand’s critics tell the story, she went from darling to detractor of the gun lobby overnight, once Gov. David A. Paterson plucked her from a conservative U.S. House seat to be New York’s junior senator in January.
But as sharp as Mrs. Gillibrand’s turn has been — she won a 100 percent vote score from the National Rifle Association last year but now touts gun control and gives up any chance of an NRA endorsement again — her credentials on firearms issues are more nuanced than pro-gun or anti-gun advocates might have voters believe.
She defies clear definition as she prepares for a Democratic primary next year where guns are likely to be an issue, acknowledging some adjusted thinking but resisting the flip-flopper caricature.
The senator’s critics cite her perfect score last year from the NRA, which endorsed her for re-election to the House. But the NRA’s political action committee did not contribute money to her campaign; two years earlier it not only endorsed, but gave $5,500 to, her opponent, Rep. John E. Sweeney, R-Clifton Park. She has never been a member of the NRA, a spokeswoman said, although she has spoken of her own gun ownership and about learning hunting skills from her family, where her mother, she has said, is the best shot.