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Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-04-27

Several potential Republican presidential candidates for the 2016 US elections courted gun-rights supporters Saturday at the National Rifle Association’s annual convention held in Indianapolis.

Politicians including US Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, Indiana Governor Mike Pence and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal talked up their pro-gun credentials at the NRA’s annual leadership forum on Friday, a kind of political pep rally that the organisation considers one of its premier events.

The four big-name Republicans, all pegged as possible 2016 presidential contenders, spoke to a crowd of almost 2,000 gun lovers gathered inside Lucas Oil Stadium, home to the American football team the Indianapolis Colts.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and US Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire also recorded brief videos which were played to the crowd.

One after another, the possible 2016 Republican nominees thanked the NRA and its members for flexing their considerable political muscle to help push back recent gun-control efforts, including legislation following the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut that would have required background checks for gun purchases. They said that same activism will be critical heading into elections this autumn, in 2016 and beyond.

52% favour stricter gun laws

An Associated Press-GfK poll in December found that 52 percent of Americans favoured stricter gun laws, 31% wanted them left as they were, and 15% said they should be loosened.

Gun-control supporters were also making their voices heard, holding rallies outside the event throughout the weekend.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal charged that Vice President Joe Biden and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, both possible Democratic presidential candidates, think the Second Amendment is little more than “a phrase from a speech writer.”

“If they had their way they’d simply cut and paste the Constitution and just get rid of the Second Amendment entirely,” said Jindal, referring to the amendment that guarantees the right to bear arms.

Jindal approved several gun rights bills last year, including one that creates stiff penalties for those who knowingly publish the names of gun permit holders.

Rubio scrambles to retain gun-rights vote

US Senator Marco Rubio opposed limiting gun rights after Sandy Hook, but he also saw his NRA grade (the NRA gives members of Congress a grade ranging from A to F that reflects their voting record on gun rights) drop from an A to a B+ amid criticism of his stance on some gun-rights legislation.

He said Friday that being able to provide a safe home for one’s family is fundamental to achieving the American dream. And he said that while gun-rights supporters were outraged and saddened by violence such as Sandy Hook, public policy “must be guided by common sense.”

“Making it harder for law-abiding Americans to defend themselves has not, does not and will not prevent future tragedies such as these,” Rubio said.

Both Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and Indiana Governor Mike Pence noted their wives share their love of guns. Pence, who approved a measure this year to allow guns in locked vehicles on school property, said when he met his wife, she had a gun and a motorcycle and “it was love at first sight.”

Santorum said it’s not just gun rights that are under assault. He called on the NRA’s millions of members to also fight for religious freedom and First Amendment rights.

“Just protecting the Second Amendment while all other freedoms falter isn’t a winning strategy,” Santorum said. “We need you to engage.”

Gun show no-shows

Two other Republicans considered possible presidential candidates, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, didn’t attend.

Bush has attended the NRA’s past conferences and has signed legislation supported by the group. In 2005, he signed the measure which allows a person to use deadly force when threatened in public places. The law received attention in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida in 2012. Bush also supports instant background checks for gun-show gun purchases, an unpopular position with the NRA.

However, Bush has kept his distance this year from such events and been selective making public political statements ahead of any announcement about his plans for 2016.

Christie has not been as popular with the NRA as Bush. In 2009, as a candidate for governor, he staunchly opposed a measure in Congress that would have superseded the state’s strict laws forbidding carrying concealed weapons. That bill would have required New Jersey to recognise concealed-carry permits from out-of-state visitors to the state.

(FRANCE 24 with AP)

Date created : 2014-04-26

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