Rudy Giuliani said Sept. 11 changed his perspective on gun rights, but was unapologetic for the gun laws he imposed as New York City mayor at the National Rifle Association’s “American Values” summit Friday.
“September 11 casts somewhat of a different light on the 2nd Amendment and 2ndAmendment rights,” Giuliani said. “It’s doesn’t change that fundamental right, but maybe it highlights the necessity for it.”
Giuliani, however, was eager to tell NRA members of his record reducing crime in New York. He said he helped “transform New York City from the crime capital in America to the safest large city in America.”
“At the time that I was mayor, I took advantage of every law and every interpretation of every law that I could think of to reduce crime in New York City,” Giuliani said.
Before Giuliani took stage, Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.), who is competing with Giuliani for the Republican nomination for President, took some obvious shots at the former mayor.
McCain criticized “big city mayors” a handful of times in his address who supported gun control laws “instead of increasing police patrols and supporting tough sentences on law breakers and other measures that actually address crime, restrict ownership of guns and limit the rights of law-abiding citizens.”
Before Giuliani spoke, informational sheets that detailed Giuliani’s spotty record on gun rights were distributed to the press. The papers appeared shortly after McCain left the building.
One of the sheets contained a list of quotes from Giuliani on gun rights, complete with YouTube links of the mayor making those statements. One of them was a comment Giuliani made on the Charlie Rose show in 1995 about the NRA.
Giuliani said: “I think the NRA is involved in a strategy I don’t understand. I don’t understand fighting assault weapons, the ban on assault weapons…the NRA for some reason goes way overboard. I mean, it’s almost what the extremists on the other side do. I think the extremists of the Left and the extremists on the Right have essentially the same tactic, the slippery slope theory, if you give one point, then your entire argument is going to fall apart and we kinda get destroyed by that.”
In his speech, McCain indirectly references this quote by telling participants he disagreed with those who had called NRA members “extremists” in the past.
Former Tennessee Republican Sen. Fred Thompson, who formally entered his race for the presidency earlier this month, also spoke. After he finished speaking, he entertained two questions from an NRA representative. One of them was if Thompson agreed that larger cities, riddled with crime needed more gun control laws while safer, smaller, rural areas—like those found in Tennessee—could given their residents greater gun rights.
Thompson replied, “Nope.”
In his address, Thompson told those who questioned his record on gun rights to look no further than this “A” rating from the NRA. “The Constitution means what it says,” Thompson said.
Before any of the presidential candidates could speak to NRA members, Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre threw down a gauntlet. He said candidates who don’t support the NRA “just don’t get it…And those who just don’t get it have a much smaller chance of winning national elections,” LaPierre warned. “Anyone who ignores us will do so at their own peril.”
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney did not attend, but a pre-recorded video message from him was played for attendees. In the video, Romney reminded viewers that he had been endorsed by hunting groups in previous races and he believed the 2nd Amendment was a “cornerstone” of American heritage.
The conference, held in the Washington D.C.’s Capitol Hilton, drew at least 400 NRA members. Organizers said invitations to the event were limited to only the most “active” members across the country.
Democratic presidential candidate and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson sent a video message to the group and Republican presidential candidates Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R.) and California Rep. Duncan Hunter (R.) were scheduled to speak to NRA members Friday afternoon.
Along with a steady drumbeat of presidential candidates, a slew of other high-profile leaders headlined the event. Other speakers included: Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R.-K.Y.), Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour (R.), former Attorney General John Ashcroft, Senator John Thune (R.-S.D.) and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.