McCain's speech to the NRA was interrupted by war protesters.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Sen. John McCain took a swipe Friday at those demanding that U.S. troops return from Iraq, saying, "We won't choose to lose."
After two members of the anti-war group Code Pink interrupted McCain's speech to the National Rifle Association, the Arizona Republican said, "Well, my friends, we beat you yesterday. We beat you the day before. We'll beat you today and we'll beat you tomorrow. We won't choose to lose. We won't choose to lose this conflict."
McCain seemed to address both the protestors and supporters of amendments offered by Senate Democrats this week that would have either cut funding for the war or called for a timetable for withdrawing troops in Iraq. All of the amendments either failed to get a majority or the 60 votes required by Senate rules to proceed in the face of a GOP filibuster.
The protesters were escorted out of the room after the disruption.
McCain was the first of four presidential candidate to address the NRA in person and the first to take a swipe at two GOP rivals.
"A number of big city mayors decided it was more important to blame the manufacturers of a legal product than it was to control crime in their own cities," said McCain, in a veiled attack on Rudy Giulaini, who initiated a lawsuit against gun manufacturers when he was mayor of New York.
McCain went on to attack former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and the former governor's recent admission that he likes to hunt "small varmints."
"If you show your bona fides by hunting ducks or varmints or quail it makes up for support of gun control," said McCain. "This myth overlooks a fundamental truth, the Second Amendment is not about hunting, it's about freedom."
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani also spoke at the event. Giuliani may have faced the most resistance from the group because of the lawsuit.
In his speech, Giuliani addressed those differences head on, saying, "There are probably a few things we disagree about. But there are many more things that we have in common."
Former Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tennessee, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee also addressed the crowd and both touched on long-held beliefs in Second Amendment rights.
Thompson told the NRA audience that his position on gun control has not changed since his first days as senator.
"I will say the same things that I have been saying since 1994 and that I say in New Hampshire and what I say in Florida and all parts in between," Thompson said. "My philosophy does not depend on my geography and I thought it was time I laid down that marker early on."
Huckabee had a similar sentiment, telling the audience that he isn't a new member of the NRA, "I didn't just join last year. I've been a part of the organization for a while. Not only am I a member, but my wife is as well."
– CNN Producer Xuan Thai