Eleven Republican presidential hopefuls addressed those gathered at the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum last Friday at the NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits in Nashville, extolling their pro-Second Amendment records. Those speaking included Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Dr. Ben Carson, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, U.S. Sen. Lindsay Graham, Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.
While any of those candidates would ensure a pro-gun White House, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre pointed out exactly why one of them must be elected in 2016: the dangerous possibility of a Hillary Clinton presidency.
“If that happens, it would be catastrophic for this country,” LaPierre said. “Then it would not be a knock at our door. It would be a pounding at the door of gun owners.”
There’s little doubt all of those speaking are strong Second Amendment supporters. The forum gave each of them an opportunity to make his case to the NRA members gathered.
“When he (President Barack Obama) tried to ban green-tip ammo, we rose up and we stopped him,” said Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who has been a featured speaker at the annual meetings several times. “I guess that’s why he complains about how we cling to our guns and religion. As the governor of the great state of Louisiana, I’m proud to report we’ve got plenty of guns and religion both—but we’re not bitter about any of it.”
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker told those in attendance that he can stand with any of the other hopefuls on his Second Amendment record.
“I’m proud of my A-plus ranking as a governor,” Walker said. “I’m proud of that, even though some on the Left might say it’s a scarlet letter. I consider it a badge of honor. And I do it not just for the obvious reasons, but I do it because, if you think about it, I’m proud to stand up for law-abiding citizens and your right to possess firearms.”While any of those candidates would ensure a pro-gun White House, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre pointed out exactly why one of them must be elected in 2016.
Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum spoke on a variety of issues important to members, not the least of which was his support of law-abiding gun owners.
“Government is trying to tell you how you are supposed to run your life,” Santorum said. “This is about freedom. The Second Amendment is there to protect the First Amendment. The Second Amendment is there to protect all our freedoms.”
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry said he is proud to be a Life member of the NRA and a lifetime defender of the Second Amendment.
“We happen to believe that human liberty is the gift of God, and the guarantee of our Constitution,” Perry said. “We do not believe the Constitution is a cafeteria plan. You don’t just get to pick and choose the rights you like and discard the ones that are inconvenient to your political agenda. Every word in the Bill of Rights is sacred. And that includes the First, the Second and the Tenth Amendment.”
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush highlighted his long list of Second Amendment accomplishments as Sunshine State governor.
“It’s almost like the Obama administration doesn’t realize that the best form of national defense is a nation of free men and women exercising their Second Amendment rights,” Bush said. “I have a message for the Obama administration. Why don’t you focus more on keeping weapons out of the hands of Islamic terrorists and less on keeping weapons out of the hands of law-abiding Americans.”
Dr. Ben Carson, one of the few non-politicians speaking at the gathering, clarified his position on firearm owners’ rights and the Second Amendment.
“Just for the record, let me make it extremely clear that I am extremely pro-Second Amendment,” Carson said. “There’s no question about it. And I would never allow for anybody to tamper with that right because it is so important.”
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida directly took on those who would say the Second Amendment shouldn’t protect ownership of AR-15s.
“The genius of our founders doesn’t have an expiration date,” Rubio told the crowd. “No politician would argue our First Amendment right to free speech is less valuable in the digital age than it was in the days of pen and paper. And therefore I believe it is equally outrageous for anyone to argue that our Second Amendment right is less valuable today.”
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee spoke of the disconnect between career politicians in the Beltway and the many Americans who live in so-called “flyover country.”
“I grew up in an area, like so many of you did, where the ‘gun nuts’ are not the people who own guns,” he said. “The ‘gun nuts’ are the people who are afraid of firearms and think the whole country would be safer if we would take them away from law-abiding people and create a gun-free zone where we’re all sitting ducks.”
South Carolina U.S. Sen. Lindsay Graham spoke of four special guns in his collection, including an AR-15 with the seal of his Army Reserve unit (Task Force 435) engraved on it. The [NRA-ILA Leadership] Forum gave each of [the presidential hopefuls] an opportunity to make his case to the NRA members gathered.
“You may not like the fact that I have these guns,” he said. “You may disagree with the fact that I have these guns. But all I can say to you is I have a right to own these guns. I have a duty to be responsible with these guns.”
Presidential hopeful Donald Trump, another non-politician on the speaking schedule, expressed his love for both the Second Amendment and the NRA.
“I promise you one thing,” Trump said. “If I run for president, and if I win, the Second Amendment will be totally protected. That I can tell you.”
Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, the only speaker on the agenda who has officially announced his candidacy for president, said NRA members give him hope for the future.
“We are seeing an unprecedented threat to our liberties each and every day from the federal government,” he said. “And yet I want to tell you: I am inspired, I am optimistic, I am hopeful, and I want to tell you why. It’s because of each and every one of you. NRA—the men and women here—are men and women of action. You are leaders who stand and fight for your constitutional rights.”