Mitch McConnell's gun at the entrance of the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday
was a welcoming sight for many attendees.
The 72-year-old Senate Minority Leader from Kentucky walked onto stage with Bon Jovi's "Livin’ on a Prayer" blasting behind him as he brandished a long rifle that he later presented as a gift from the National Rifle Association to retiring Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn.
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"This is for you," McConnell told Coburn as he handed the rifle to him behind the podium. "For your distinguished service over the years."
The 66-year-old Coburn, a longtime gun rights advocate who once joked that it was a good thing he couldn't "pack a gun on the Senate floor" during congressional debates
, recently revealed that he has cancer and is stepping down in November, two years before he completes his second term.
After Coburn exited the stage with his gun in hand, McConnell addressed the audience, telling the conservative crowd, "If I am given the opportunity to lead the U.S. Senate next year, I won’t let you down," NBC News reported
McConnell's remarks suggest that Republicans have a strong possibility of regaining control of the Senate in 2014, which would require winning back six of the contested 33 seats from Democrats in November.
Aside from national politics, McConnell is facing a tough race in Kentucky against Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes, who, according to polls earlier this month, is leading the veteran, five-term incumbent senator
Reacting to McConnell's gift on Thursday, Grimes joked on Twitter that her opponent didn’t know how to hold a gun, simultaneously courting her female base.
Grimes' campaign has been boosted recently by former President Bill Clinton, who campaigned on her behalf last month and is very popular in the Bluegrass State.
McConnell is also facing a challenge in the Republican primary with Tea Party candidate Matt Bevin.
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