INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Several potential Republican presidential candidates courted gun-rights supporters during the National Rifle Association's annual convention on Friday.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, former Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal spoke at the NRA's leadership forum Friday in Indianapolis.
Rubio told the crowd being able to provide a safe home for one's family is fundamental to achieving the American dream.
“The safety of our families is not something people should hope government can provide,” Rubio said.
The junior senator said that gun owners were among the most law-abiding citizens in the country and condemned “anti-gun zealots” for using mass shootings.
Rubio said gun owners “wept and mourned just like the rest of the country” when tragedies happen, and urged Americans to think of the issue in a logical, not an emotional, sense.
He also criticized the news media and entertainment industries, saying they “stigmatize guns and gun ownership.”
Pence says Indiana was one of the first states to allow the concealed carry of guns in state parks.
Jindal says if Democrats had their way they'd "cut and paste the constitution and get rid of the Second Amendment entirely."
Santorum says it's not just the Second Amendment under attack by liberals. He says religious freedom and First Amendment rights also are threatened.
They were among featured speakers to the thousands of NRA members gathered, at a time when the gun lobby is arguably stronger than ever.
Jindal approved several gun rights bills last year, including one that creates stiff penalties for those who knowingly publish the names of gun permit holders. In 2010, he signed a measure that allowed concealed handguns in churches, mosques and synagogues.
Rubio opposed limiting gun rights after the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. But he also saw his NRA grade drop from an A to a B+ amid criticism of his stance on some gun-rights legislation.
Pence approved a measure this year that allowed guns in locked vehicles on school property.
Addressing the same forum in 2013, Santorum thanked the crowd for fighting back when "freedom was under assault" following Sandy Hook. That's when gun-control efforts, including background checks for all gun purchasers and a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, were defeated in Congress.
More than 70,000 people were expected to attend the three-day convention in Indianapolis. Gun-control supporters also are making their voices heard, holding rallies outside the event.
An Associated Press-GfK poll in December found that 52 percent of Americans favored stricter gun laws, 31 percent wanted them left as they were, and 15 percent said they should be loosened.