PITTSBURGH (Reuters) – The National Rifle Association wrapped up its annual meeting on Sunday with an appearance by rocker Ted Nugent, who urged the pro-gun rights crowd to “talk about guns all the time.”
The guitarist and pro-gun activist won a standing ovation from the crowd of some 2,000 who listened to him describe the fight against gun control as a public relations battle.
“You need to fix everybody in your lives to be absolutely pro-gun,” Nugent said. “You need to talk guns all the time. You need to talk hunting all the time.
“The gun community should be all about public relations,” he said. “We haven’t turned up the heat enough yet.”
Some 70,000 people — men, women, families with children — attended the powerful gun lobby’s three-day event in Pittsburgh, said NRA spokeswoman Rachel Parsons.
The group claims roughly 4 million members.
The meeting featured speeches, workshops and more than 400 exhibitors including top gun makers Winchester, Browning and Remington.
Nugent took aim at politicians who he said are most vocal about seeking tighter gun controls — President Barack Obama, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York’s U.S. Senator Charles Schumer.
The Obama administration has proposed that gun dealers in four states on the U.S.-Mexico border be required to report the sale of multiple rifles — a bid to curb the flow of guns into Mexico where drug cartels wage deadly wars.
The proposal has drawn intense criticism from the NRA, which has accused the administration of using the violence in Mexico as a pretext to try to clamp down on gun sales.
“If it was up to me, if you uttered the word ‘gun control,’ we’d put you in jail,” Nugent said. “Does anybody not know that the most dangerous place in the world is a gun-free zone?”
Nugent treated the crowd to a version of “The Star Spangled Banner” on his electric guitar.
The stage was decorated with assault rifles leaning against the amplifiers, a hunting bow, skulls, antlers and arrows.
He found a warm reception in crowd members such as Hunter Ruby, 24, of NewBethlehem, Pennsylvania, who said he came to the annual meeting to see the musician.
“I agree with a lot of what he says and I hope he fires everybody else up as he does me,” he said.
Another attendee, Lynda Messerschmidt, 54 of Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, said she agreed with Nugent’s message as well.
“He’s got the people excited, and he’s spreading the word,” she said. “We’ve got to get the word out like he said.”
The issue of gun control is likely to be a theme during the 2012 presidential campaign. Obama recently sought to bring together differing sides to discuss ways to make gun laws more effective, a call the NRA has rejected.
(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst)