(CNN) – Gun-rights advocates heralded efforts in punishing legislators at the ballot box in Colorado for new firearms restrictions and ripped into a new, well-funded gun-control effort launched by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
It was all part of a predictable helping of red-meat rhetoric at Friday’s opening of the annual National Rifle Association meeting in Indianapolis that also included warnings about a potential Hillary Clinton presidential run and an erosion of American freedoms.
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Several potential Republican presidential candidates took the podium, which is an important stop for those in the GOP contemplating a 2016 run to burnish their Second Amendment credentials.
Wayne LaPierre, the NRA's executive vice president, fired up the crowd at Lucas Oil Stadium with trademark inflammatory rhetoric, heavy on anti-government themes.
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He accused the Obama administration as well as the "political and media elites" of chiseling away at the rights of Americans.
Perhaps the nation's most visible gun rights advocate, LaPierre drew a stark picture of the dangers that he said plague the country and argued the government has failed to protect its citizens.
"We know that in the world that surrounds us there are terrorists, home invaders, drug cartels, car jackers, 'knock-out' gamers, rapers, haters, campus killers, airport killers, shopping mall killers, and killers who scheme to destroy our country with massive storms of violence against our power grids or vicious waves of chemicals or disease that could collapse as a society that sustains us all," he said.
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"So I ask you this afternoon: do you trust this government really to protect you and your family?" he continued. "We're on our own. That's a certainty."
He also dabbled into presidential politics, warning that gun-control advocates and those who side with them are also setting the stage for Hillary Clinton, who's considering another run for the White House.
"They're out there laying the groundwork to put a Clinton back in the White House," LaPierre said to a round of boos.
Sen. Marco Rubio, who's weighing a presidential bid, said Americans can "take comfort" about what he sees as a hostile attack against gun rights because "in just 32 months, we will have a new president."
"And our current president should take comfort because in 32 months he can return home to live in the anti-gun utopia that is Chicago," he said.
Gun-control critics argue that cities with strict firearm bans, like Chicago, see more violence because people aren't allowed to arm themselves. Forty-five people were shot in the city last weekend.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who's facing a tough re-election battle this year, touted his Second Amendment-protector bona fides, promising the NRA crowd to continue his fighting against the administration's oppressive policies.
"The Bill of Rights does not come a la carte. It's not a pick and choose menu, despite what some in Washington may think," the Kentucky Republican said. "The Obama administration needs to be made to understand that the American people are serious about protecting their rights."
But former presidential candidate Rick Santorum, a tea party favorite known for his staunchly social conservative following, said defending the right to bear arms isn't enough and that many basic freedoms are under assault.
"I'm coming to you to say thank you first, but it's not enough," he said. "Our rights are being assailed everywhere and just protecting the Second Amendment while all the other freedoms falter is not enough."
Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania, is also considering another run for the White House in 2016.
Another potential White House candidate, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, was the final speaker of the event. He warned that government infringement wouldn't stop with controlling Second Amendment rights, and suggested politicians like Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden misunderstand why Americans want to have guns.
Jindal pointed to "liberal extremist" bent on taking away guns as the same forces trying to implement a federally controlled healthcare system and to suppress freedom of religion.
"We must not let our opponents redefine what it means to be an American," he said, later adding, "let's be honest ... they think we're too dumb to order a pizza and too dangerous to protect our land."
Milwaukee County sheriff slams retired Supreme Court justice
Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, an outspoken gun rights advocate, sharply criticized retired Justice John Paul Stevens, who penned an op-ed in the Washington Post last week proposing changes to the Second Amendment.
"Now I know that people like Justice Stevens think they are smarter than the rest of us but with all due respect just what part of `shall not be infringed' does Justice Stevens not understand?" Clarke said.
"I have a better way of clearing up any confusion that activist judges have about the meaning of the Second amendment. I would add these seven words at the end of the clause `the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed' … ‘Keep your hands off our guns, damn it.'"
This year’s meeting, expected to draw 70,000 people over the weekend comes as the fight over gun control shifts from Washington to the states, cities and local communities.
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Chris Cox, the executive director of the Institute for Legislative Action, the political and lobbying arm of the NRA, touted a victory by gun-rights advocates in Colorado last September when voters booted two Democratic state lawmakers from office for supporting new gun laws.
Finally, he ripped into Bloomberg, a former New York City mayor who has pledged $50 million of his own money toward a new, highly publicized gun-control initiative.
"Mr. Bloomberg, you're an arrogant hypocrite,” Cox said of the politico and billionaire-businessman who is aiming to take on the NRA head on with the nation still being jolted by mass shootings and deadly inner city violence.
“Thirty-one billion dollars, $31 billion does not entitle you to tell us how to live our lives," Cox said. "Stay out of our homes, stay out of our refrigerators and stay the hell out of our gun cabinets because this freedom is not for sale," Cox.
Gun control activists not backing down
The gun debate has largely pivoted to the states, where gun-control advocates are recalibrating their efforts after falling short in Washington following the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012.
Gun-control activists were expected to head to Indianapolis to demonstrate near the NRA convention. Over 100 moms and 20 gun violence survivors will attempt to raise awareness.
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The activists represent Everytown for Gun Safety, the new organization backed by Bloomberg, as well as Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
"At every single mass murder of the last 20 years (Columbine, Sandy Hook, the Colorado theater, the Giffords shooting,etc...) there have been so-called "good guys with guns" and in fact nothing changed-"
Huh? Are you dealing in reality? That is completely factually incorrect. Where was the good guy with the gun at Sandy Hook or Fort Hood (actually, both times the gunman was stopped by a good guy with a gun and stopped the killing) or Virginia Tech or Columbine or any other mass shooting? Every single one of these major events has occurred at a gun free zone.
@Rudy 5. You should thank Eric Holder; Janet Reno would've smoked 'em out.
Yes, and did you know China cited Waco as an example of a dangerous "house church" in an attempt to go after the Dalai Lama in 2013 according to Reuters? Waco was an example of failure at every level of both federal and state government.