Texas GOP heavyweights Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Ted Cruz welcomed the National Rifle Association’s annual convention on Friday, in a show of strength amid a national backdrop of mass shootings, fierce gun-control debates, and last month’s defeat of background-check legislation on Capitol Hill.
“Nobody likes gun violence, especially NRA members,” Perry told a rousing audience of NRA members during an afternoon rally at the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston.
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“By keeping guns out of the hands of those who use them properly and legally, they're only making it easier for predators to prey on the defenseless,” the governor said, referring to gun-control efforts by President Barack Obama.
“The National Rifle Association is the voice of experience,” he added. “It's the voice of common sense reminding everyone that a threat to gun ownership is a threat to the basic constitutional right.”
For his part, Cruz encouraged NRA members to continue to fight efforts to restrict firearm ownership.
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“The Constitution matters. All of the Constitution,” the senator said. “It’s not pick and choose. It’s not take what part you like and get rid of the parts you don’t like.
“Every word of the Constitution matters,” Cruz added. “It is our fundamental protection of our liberties against the government.”
He also challenged Vice President Joe Biden to a debate on gun violence and gun rights. The debate could serve as a 2016 president campaign preview, with both men considering runs for the White House.
"The fight is not over," Cruz said, referring to efforts by Biden to revive gun measures in Congress.
“If Vice President Biden really believes the facts are on his side and this is not an exercise in political power, I would think he would welcome the opportunity to talk about the sources of violent crime and how we can do everything we can to stop it,” Cruz said.
Perry and Cruz were among several GOP supporters who spoke at the kickoff of the three-day NRA convention.
Others included GOP vice presidential candidates Paul Ryan — who spoke by video — and Sarah Palin, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, and former presidential candidate Rick Santorum.
Conservative commentator Glenn Beck and rocker and NRA stalwart Ted Nugent are scheduled to speak this weekend.
In his speech, Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, praised the NRA as “warriors” defending the Constitution. The Bill of Rights and the Second Amendment “come from God.”
In working to defeat the background-checks legislation in the Senate last month, Santorum said the NRA “stood up when freedom was under assault. You stood in the gap. You made a difference.”
The legislation would have expanded background checks to gun purchases at gun shows and online.
More than 70,000 people are expected to attend the NRA convention, whose theme this year is “Stand and Fight.” Other activities include a gun trade show, youth day, and firearms classes.
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