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NRA Celebration Of America

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Presidential Candidates Ask for NRA Support

The scene was common enough in American politics: 500 people seated in a ballroom at the Capital Hilton in Washington, D.C., television cameras glaring at a podium and a full cast of 2008 presidential candidates set to speak. Only the event wasn`t common at all. The candidates came to a first-ever symposium where they would affirm their support for the Second Amendment of the Constitution before a crowd of National Rifle Association members. Just a few election cycles ago, political pundits might have deemed the event poor presidential politics.

But in 2008, presidential candidates know that the Right to Keep and Bear Arms is as mainstream as baseball in America and so, unless they have something to hide, they`d be wise to make their positions clear. To give them a forum to do so, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre and NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris W. Cox hosted "A Celebration of American Values" on September 21-22, 2007, the first event in a national tour. The results were clarifying. Politicians spelled out their views on the Second Amendment before the primaries and caucuses take place, thereby allowing voters to pick their parties` candidates effectively. And the crowd was animated. Print and television reporters gave the event unprecedented ink and airtime. C-SPAN aired the event live-and has rerun it several times since. A New York Sun op-ed by Kenneth Blackwell accurately summed up the importance of the event: "In each of the last four even-year general elections gun owners have had a massive impact. And the National Rifle Association has proven to everyone that if you want to win the presidency, earning the support of gun owners and Second Amendment defenders might be the deciding factor. ... The NRA is in a stronger position than ever to influence the 2008 elections. "

With that goal in mind, ILA Executive Director Chris W. Cox said, "This forum was not intended to serve as the springboard for an NRA endorsement in the presidential campaign. As we have historically done, we will carefully weigh every candidate`s past actions and future commitments on all issues affecting the Second Amendment before making an endorsement decision."

NRA members came to hear and question Senator John McCain, R-Ariz.; former Senator Fred Thompson, R-Tenn.; former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani; and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. Other guest speakers included Senator Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour; former Attorney General John Ashcroft; Representative John Dingell, D-Mich.; former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore; Senator John Barrasso, R-Wyo.; Senator John Thune, R-S.D.; and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. There were also taped messages from California Rep. Duncan Hunter, Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson; former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former Representative Harold Ford Jr., D-Tenn.

The event received phenomenal media attention because the presidential race is already in full swing; in fact, the race could be solidified with primaries this winter and gun rights could be a defining issue. As a result, the NRA is moving fast to make sure NRA members have the information they need to choose candidates who will respect the Second Amendment. But the NRA can`t succeed without its members` support. To make this point clear, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre urged NRA members to make sure their friends, neighbors or spouses who believe in a true reading of the Bill of Rights become NRA members and register to vote.

This forum was not intended to serve as the springboard for an NRA endorsement in the presidential campaign. As we have historically done, we will carefully weigh every candidate`s past actions and future commitments on all issues affecting the Second Amendment before making an endorsement decision

Chris W. Cox, Executive Director, NRA-ILA

To be sure America`s gun owners are not caught snoozing, the NRA has launched an ambitious membership drive in cooperation with hundreds of businesses small and large to recruit new NRA members. In a major announcement at the event, Mike Golden, CEO of Smith & Wesson, explained that because of this new industry initiative "all America`s gun owners should wake up, look around and see they must join the NRA, the civil-liberties organization defending their Second Amendment rights." (Go to to see what you can do to help.)

Doug Painter, president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, told readers of SHOT Business, whose primary audience is firearm industry retailers and wholesalers, "We should never underestimate the bedrock value of the voting bloc represented by our customers, the millions of gun owners across the country who place a high political value on their firearm freedoms." In that same article, former NRA President Sandy Froman said, "We must start building the NRA membership immediately, so that we have a large grassroots army trained and in place for the next election cycle."

According to a Gallup poll, 33 million Americans perceive themselves to be members of the NRA, yet only about 4 million are actual members. For the sake of our constitutional rights, these gun owners must become NRA members so the NRA can inform them about critical issues and expose their representatives` voting records. The time is now. Urge your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers to join NRA today-your rights depend on it.

Learn about these candidates` positions on the Second Amendment and watch many of their full speeches by going to


The NRA Political Victory Fund (NRA-PVF) is NRA's political action committee. The NRA-PVF ranks political candidates — irrespective of party affiliation — based on voting records, public statements and their responses to an NRA-PVF questionnaire.