NASHVILLE (CNN) –
A pack of 2016 Republicans made their pitch for president Friday before the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting in Nashville, blasting the Obama administration for what they described as an erosion of freedom while punctuating their remarks with sharp enthusiasm for Second Amendment rights.
The contenders also used the principles behind gun rights to fire off criticism of President Barack Obama’s handling of national security, further signaling the influential role that foreign policy is expected to have in the presidential election.
More than 70,000 people descended upon Music City to attend the convention, but tickets to see the candidates speak in a five-hour long forum was limited to about 5,000 people.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas was the only declared candidate on stage Friday. Other potential contenders included former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
1. Candidates show off gun credentials
As tradition at the annual NRA gathering, the speakers tried to establish their own longstanding history with guns in different ways. Santorum held up his concealed carry card before the audience and boasted that his wife requested ammunition for an upcoming birthday.
Walker talked about bow-hunting, while Huckabee perused the firearm vendor hall and later listed on stage the guns he grew up with, including his first BB gun at the age of five. “I still have the same gun in mint condition,” he said.
Perry screened a video showing off his shooting skills (the same video was also shown at the 2013 NRA convention). The former governor also crowed about the gun manufacturers he recruited to Texas from other states.
For Bush, the NRA meeting was a chance to tout his record, including his A+ rating from the NRA, before a conservative crowd that’s largely skeptical of him due to his more moderate positions on immigration and Common Core.
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More than 70,000 people attended event