Discuss as:

Republican politicians pay tribute to NRA clout at annual meeting

In an indicator of the continued influence of the nation’s largest gun-owners’ group, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, and other Republican politicians addressed the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting in Houston Friday, celebrating the defeat of gun legislation in the Senate, assailing the media, and offering a strong defense of the powerful lobbying organization.

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin speaks during the 2013 NRA Annual Meeting and Exhibits at the George R. Brown Convention Center on May 3, 2013 in Houston, Texas.

Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate, delivered a wide-ranging attack not just on President Barack Obama, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and other proponents of gun control measures, but on what she portrayed as attempts to curtail all personal freedoms.

In the wake of the Newtown, Conn., shootings, Palin accused Obama and other gun control proponents of emotionally manipulating voters and “exploiting emotion for their own agenda.” And news media organizations, she said, are “the reliable poodle-skirted cheerleaders for a president who writes the book on exploiting tragedy.”

In a reprise of her use of a 7-Eleven “Big Gulp” as a prop during the Conservative Political Action Conference to mock Bloomberg’s ban on large-sized sodas, she displayed a pack of cigarettes at the NRA event to poke fun at the mayor’s call for banning store displays of cigarettes.

Alluding to the defeat of a Senate measure two weeks ago to expand background checks for gun buyers, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas told the crowd that gun control measures a month ago had “looked like an unstoppable freight train” but that they and fellow gun owners across the nation had mobilized to stop it in a victory that was “truly amazing.” But he said Obama and his allies have said “that they intend to come back at us” with another attempt to pass gun legislation in the Senate.

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Attendees walk on the show floor during the 2013 NRA Annual Meeting and Exhibits at the George R. Brown Convention Center on May 3, 2013 in Houston, Texas.

“We must do everything we can to stop violent crime,” the Texas Republican said, as he accused the Obama administration of not doing enough to prosecute felons and fugitives who try to buy guns as well as criminals who use a gun in the commission of a crime.

Cruz also challenged Vice President Joe Biden, who like Cruz is a potential 2016 presidential contender, to an hour-long debate on how to stop crime. “If Vice President Biden really believes the facts are on his side … I would think he would welcome the opportunity to talk about the sources, the causes of violent crime and how we do everything humanly possible to stop it.”

Chris Cox, the head of the group’s Institute for Legislative Action, said in Friday’s session that since Newtown, “We’ve seen the politicians, the national media, and their billionaire supporters attack us, ridicule us, and, worst of all, blame us for the acts of violent criminals and madmen.”

Also speaking Friday were Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum -- two other possible contenders for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.

Santorum praised gun owners saying that -- in the wake of Newtown -- “when the entire tide of the national media and the popular culture was trying to erode a fundamental freedom, you stood tall -- as unpopular as it seemed -- you stood for the truth.”  

Sen.  Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., discussed the continued push for new gun laws and the NRA's convention.

Two weeks ago, the NRA scored a major victory when the Senate rejected an amendment sponsored by two senators who had gotten NRA backing in their past campaigns, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., and Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa.

The Manchin-Toomey amendment would have required background checks on would-be firearms purchasers at gun shows at which 75 or more firearms were available for sale.

Under current law, although background checks are required to buy a weapon from a federally licensed dealer, no check is needed for those who buy from a private gun owner or at gun shows or similar events.

While most Republican senators opposed the Manchin-Toomey measure, three GOP senators in addition to Toomey himself voted for it. And while most Democratic senators voted for it, five Democrats voted no, including two who are up for re-election next year, Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska.

This story was originally published on