President Barack Obama is "indecisive, weak, making bad deals and leaving America exposed," former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said on Friday, but he said Obama has not been able to undermine the Second Amendment because of the National Rifle Association.
"Our government is too big, it is too powerful, and it is too intrusive," he told about 5,000 people attending the NRA's Leadership Forum at the organization's annual convention in Nashville, Tennessee. "We're using the laws of 1934 to regulate access to the Internet. The government has basically taken over our healthcare insurance system.
"But the Second Amendment is one area where the Obama administration has run into a wall — and that wall is the Kevlar-covered wall of the NRA," Bush said. "The Second Amendment is still safe, and that's a good thing because the Second Amendment is the original Homeland Security Act."
Bush was among many 2016 Republican presidential hopefuls speaking at the NRA forum in the Music City Center in downtown Nashville. As many as 70,000 people are expected to attend the three-day convention, which ends Sunday.
While many of the other potential candidates took shots at Hillary Clinton, who is expected to announce her candidacy for the Democratic nomination on Sunday, Bush slammed Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder for their assault on gun rights.
Bush, who said he has been an NRA life member since 1986, said the Obama administration treats the Constitution as a "breakfast buffet."
"They pick the amendments they like — and the ones they don't like, they just leave alone," he said. "But here's the thing: the Bill of Rights is an all-inset of rights.
"It's a package deal. You honor all of it. You protect all of it, because our liberty is diminished each time we don't."
He accused the White House of trying to take away gun rights "wherever they can. If they can't pass a law, they try executive orders, they try to ban guns, they try to ban certain bullets — and they try to block banks from lending to small gun shops."
"I have a message for the Obama administration: Why don't you focus more on keeping weapons out of the hands of Islamic terrorists and less on keeping weapons out of the hands of law-abiding Americans," the former governor told the cheering crowd.
Noting that Holder once said his biggest failure as attorney general was not getting more gun-control laws enacted, Bush said: "If Eric Holder calls that a failure, I'll take it as a win."
"But this isn't just about the Second Amendment. It's about individual freedom everywhere in this country," he added. "The freedom to defend liberty wherever it is threatened."
Bush also touted his gun-rights record during his two terms as Florida governor, including the controversial "Stand Your Ground" law.
"In Florida, you can defend yourself anywhere you have a legal right to be if you reasonably believe you are in danger of death or injury or rape or kidnapping," Bush said. "This is a sensible law that other states have adopted because you shouldn't have to choose between being attacked or going to jail.
"The only thing you should be worried about is keeping yourself and your loved ones safe."
Other speakers at Friday's forum included Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Marco Rubio of Florida; Govs. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana; former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum; former Govs. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Rick Perry of Texas; and retired pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson.
Most of the presidential hopefuls have NRA ratings of A or A-minus.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who's had a checkered relationship with the NRA, is not attending this year. Former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence canceled appearances.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who launched his presidential campaign Tuesday, was scheduled to be campaigning in Iowa. He has a top rating from the organization.
Walker told the crowd that Clinton measures "success in government by how many people are dependent on the government."
Jindal drew laughter when he said he expected Clinton's campaign slogan won't be "four more years."
Graham warned attendees that "the next person you vote for, make sure he knows what the hell he's doing as commander in chief."
"We're at war," he declared, the audience cheering. "We're at war with radical Islam. We’re at war with some of the most hateful and some of the most despicable people — and they will lose and we will win."
Perry said that 2016 will be "a show-me election," whereby voters will cast their votes based on a candidate's record — "not what they say."
"If America is to lead the world again, we need that kind of leadership in the White House," he later said. "There is nothing wrong with America today that can't be fixed with strong leadership."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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