Republican presidential hopefuls swarmed in droves to Nashville today to speak at the annual National Rifle Association Convention. The event is key for any potential candidate eager to drum up support from Second Amendment activists. The NRA’s leadership forum features the longest list of possible presidential candidates in its history, and each will definitely be speaking to the choir given their A to A minus approval rating from the organization.
The NRA endorsement is the conservative seal of approval for any Republican politician seriously considering a go at running for the Oval Office, and the incentive for earning the trigger-happy badge is clear. The gun-rights advocacy group is one of the far right’s biggest constituencies and gave $35 million during the 2014 midterm elections. A high rating could gain a potential candidate plenty of right-wing votes and a huge sum of campaign cash.
So how did each of today’s speakers kiss up to their high rating and continue sucking up to the gun-crazy lobbyists?
It is no secret that Sen. Ted Cruz is a pro-gun politician. The first Republican politician to enter the 2016 race opposed a bipartisan background checks bill and continues to criticize the Obama Administration on gun-control initiatives.
“It is saddening to see the president today, once again, try to take advantage of this tragic murder to promote an agenda that will do nothing to stop violent crime, but will undermine the constitutional rights of all law-abiding Americans," Cruz said in a statement.
Sen. Rand Paul has an A rating from the NRA, but the latest presidential candidate will not be speaking at today’s event. While Paul is an avid supporter of gun rights, he is currently involved with NRA’s rival organization, the National Association for Gun Rights — causing a tense rift between himself and the lobbying group.
Sen. Marco Rubio’s B rating switched to an A rating after he introduced the "Second Amendment Rights in the District of Columbia" Act, which amended D.C. gun laws making it easier for residents to obtain firearms.
Rubio’s appearance at the NRA convention today is the most noted out of all the forum’s speakers. Rubio is expected to announce his run for president on Monday and his speech is considered his last chance to fight for support.
The former Florida governor signed the "stand your ground" law into action in 2005. The measure went under a swell of controversy in the aftermath of unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin’s, shooting death by self-proclaimed neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman. The law allows citizens to defend themselves using deadly force if they perceive their lives or others are in danger or to prevent a felony.
In his NRA speech today, Bush bragged of his unmatched record in defending gun rights, showcasing the long list of pro-gun laws he signed while in office. Bush addressed the Obama Administration during his speech saying,
“Why don't you focus more on keeping weapons out of the hands of Islamic terrorists and less on keeping them out of the hands of law abiding Americans?"
And he hinted at his run for presidency.
"If I become an active candidate, I will do so with joy in my heart to restore the sense of optimism about the greatest country on the face of the Earth."
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