Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney spoke today at the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting in an attempt to win the support of the coveted lobbying group heading into the general election.As expected, the former Massachusetts governor took the opportunity to take some serious shots at President Obama, blasting him on everything from ObamaCare, to the Buffet Rule, to the Keystone Pipeline.
But it appears that all that came at the expense of something else — a substantive position on gun control.
That’s right, before nearly 65,000 NRA supporters, Romney barely touched upon the issue. In fact, in his entire speech, the word “gun” appeared only once. And of the speech’s 2,517 words, just 197 were really devoted to the issue of gun control, based on his prepared remarks. Here they are:
“This administration’s attack on freedom extends even to rights explicitly guaranteed by our Constitution. The right to bear arms is so plainly stated, so unambiguous, that liberals have a hard time challenging it directly. Instead, they’ve been employing every imaginable ploy to restrict it.
I applaud true conservationists like Rob Keck who work to preserve lands, herds and flocks for hunting. I applaud Ambassador Bolton for opposing international efforts to erode our rights. I applaud Congressman Issa and Senator Grassley for their work in exposing the “Fast and Furious” scandal. And I applaud NRA leadership for being among the first and most vocal in calling upon Attorney General Holder to resign.
We need a President who will enforce current laws, not create new ones that only serve to burden lawful gun owners.
President Obama has not; I will.
We need a President who will stand up for the rights of hunters, sportsmen, and those seeking to protect their homes and their families. President Obama has not; I will.
And if we are going to safeguard our Second Amendment, it is time to elect a president who will defend the rights President Obama ignores or minimizes. I will.”
As you can see, Romney spoke mostly in generalities when talking about gun rights. If you look closely, Romney really only said that he would “not create new [laws] that only serve to burden lawful gun owners,” and that he will “enforce current laws.”
The problem here is that the NRA doesn’t want to simply “enforce current laws,” they want to get rid of many of them. The organisation has launched a massive voter registration initiative and continues to support hundreds of bill aimed and expanding the rights of gun owners heading into the election.
So Romney’s on-the-fence position may not go over so well with the organisation, especially as it continues to get slammed in the wake of the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. In recent weeks, the organisation has been roundly criticised for supporting laws expanding the rights of gun owners, including Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which is being used as a defence in the Martin case.
Romney has had a complicated and ever-changing relationship with the NRA. While running for Senate in Massachusetts,he famously said that his views “don’t line up with the NRA.” And as governor he took a similarly moderate positions with the organisation. In 2004, he extended the ban on assault weapons in his state, saying “These guns are not made for recreation or self-defence. They are instruments of destruction with the sole purpose of hunting down and killing people.”
More recently, Romney has come out as more supportive of the NRA, coinciding with his run for the presidency. In a 2007 interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Romney said “I support the work of the NRA. I’m a member of the NRA. But do we line up on every issue? No, we don’t.” During this election, the Romney camp said he is the proud owner of two guns.
So it appears that the Romney camp will continue to walk this fine line on gun rights. One thing has changed, though. Romney can now afford stay on this moderate path since he’s essentially sewn up the nomination. It remains to be seen whether this position will actually deter the NRA from throwing their support behind him. But our guess is that it won’t, especially when you consider the alternative.
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