FISHERSVILLE, Virginia — The National Rifle Association, the biggest gun rights lobby in the United States, announced Thursday its endorsement of Republican Mitt Romney for president.
“I am proud to have their support for my candidacy, and when I am president, I will do all in my power to defend and protect the right of all law-abiding Americans to keep and bear arms,” Romney said in a statement.
NRA Political Victory Fund chair Chris Cox said it was important to have “a friend of our Second Amendment freedoms and hunting heritage in the White House,” referring to the part of the US Constitution which enshrines the right to bear arms.
“Today we live in an America… led by a president who mocks our values, belittles our faith, and is threatened by our freedom,” said Cox in Fishersville, Virginia, where Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan, a congressman and avid hunter, attended a rally.
“So on behalf of the four million men and women of the National Rifle Association, representing tens of millions of NRA supporters, it is my honor to announce the NRA’s endorsement of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan,” Cox said in a statement.
Obama incurred the wrath of conservatives and gun owners in April 2008 when, as a Democratic presidential candidate, he told donors in liberal California that amid economic decline, some people “get bitter (and) cling to guns or religion.”
NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre spoke of the tight Obama-Romney race playing out in Virginia, “the front line of this election.”
“This is where the race could be won or lost,” he said. “This is where gun owners must make that difference.”
Gun control has not emerged as a campaign issue this year despite tragedies including the 2011 shooting of congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords at a political event in Arizona in which six people died, and the shooting at a Colorado theater during a screening of a Batman movie in July that left 12 people dead.
A survivor of the Colorado shooting made an advertisement this week calling for the candidates to finally address gun violence, as has New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but the issue has received scant attention on the campaign trail.
The NRA’s support of Romney is somewhat controversial in that Romney once favored a toughening of some gun laws. In 2004, while governor of Massachusetts, he signed off on a permanent assault weapons ban for the state.
“These guns are not made for recreation or self-defense,” Romney said at a July 1, 2004 signing ceremony, according to non-profit group Media Matters, which posted a copy of a state press release on its website.
“They are instruments of destruction with the sole purpose of hunting down and killing people,” Romney said.
Romney’s 2012 political platform, however, states that “Mitt does not believe that the United States needs additional laws that restrict the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.”