Mitt Romney made a high-profile pitch to wary gun owners today when he spoke before the National Rifle Association’s convention in St. Louis.
The de facto GOP nominee said he would reverse what he called the restrictive gun policies of President Obama.
“We need a president who will stand up for the rights of hunters, sportsmen, and those seeking to protect their homes and their families,” Romney said. “President Obama has not. I will.”
The NRA’s annual gathering comes as gun laws are back on the front-burner after the Trayvon Martin killing in Florida. The shooting of the unarmed teenager has sparked a new wave of scrutiny about “Stand Your Ground” laws in Florida and other states. A Romney campaign official said Friday that decisions surrounding “Stand Your Ground” laws – which allow people to use deadly force when they believe their lives are in danger – should be left to individual states.
“This administration’s attack on freedom extends even to rights explicitly guaranteed by our Constitution,” Romney said. “The right to bear arms is so plainly stated, so unambiguous, that liberals have a hard time challenging it directly. Instead, they’ve been employing every imaginable ploy to restrict it.”
Romney has said he will protect the Second Amendment but is viewed with some skepticism among gun owners, in part because of his record as Massachusetts governor and some of his previous comments about gun ownership.
During his failed 1994 Senate campaign against Democrat Sen. Edward Kennedy, Romney supported the Brady Bill, a major piece of Clinton-era gun-control legislation . He bluntly declared, “I don’t line up with the NRA.”
The NRA gave him a “B” rating. His Democrat opponent earned an “A.”
His 2002 gubernatorial-campaign website declared Romney’s support for “the strict enforcement of gun laws” as well as “the federal assault weapons ban.”
Romney proclaimed: “We do have tough gun laws in Massachusetts. I support them. I won’t chip away at them. I believe they protect us and provide for our safety.”
During his tenure as governor,, Romney proposed tripling fees for gun owners to obtain ID cards for firearms and to obtain a license to carry a firearm. He proposed raising the fees for a permit to $75 from $25. The legislature eventually bumped it up to $100.
With the federal assault weapons ban set to expire in 2004, members of the legislature pushed a copy of the ban in Massachusetts.
“I believe the people should have the right to bear arms, but I don’t believe that we have to have assault weapons as part of our personal arsenal,” Romney told Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes during an August 2004 taping of their Fox News show.
As Romney embarked on his first run in the GOP presidential primary, he struggled to sell himself as an authentic gun-rights advocate.
He joined the NRA in 2006 and told the group he backs the Second Amendment “as one of the most basic and fundamental rights of every American.”
He also began talking about his hunting exploits. He was widely mocked when he announced during the 2008 presidential campaign that he’s “not a big game hunter. I’ve always been, if you will, a rodent and rabbit hunter all right, small varmints if you will.”
As a presidential candidate in 2012, Romney says he believes in “safe and responsible gun ownership” as long as those who exercise the right “do so lawfully and properly.” His campaign website says he “will fight the battle on all fronts to protect and promote the Second Amendment.”