State News

Palin rallies gun owners at NRA convention

Posted May 14, 2010 4:02 a.m. EDT
Updated May 14, 2010 7:04 p.m. EDT

— Former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin on Friday told thousands of people attending the National Rifle Association's annual meeting that they need to stand up for the right to own firearms.

Mixing self-deprecating humor with folksy stubbornness, Palin, a Fox News analyst and former governor of Alaska, said the nation is safer when responsible Americans have guns at the ready.

"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," she told the cheering audience.

Palin, who is an NRA member, also blamed the media and popular culture for unfairly characterizing gun owners, noting she doesn't fit the caricature of gunning down moose while hanging out of a helicopter.

"American gun owners and hunters, we are not the ones that are glorifying violence and abuse. Hollywood should look to its own business and clean it up, and then they can tell us how to live our lives," she said.

NRA officials estimated that about 9,000 people filled the Time Warner Arena in Charlotte to watch Palin's speech.

"She represents what America is about," Jeri Pelosi said.

"I didn't realize how strong an NRA member that she was and the fights that she's had," Michelle Gagz said.

About 70,000 people are expected to attend the weekend conference, which includes an exposition with four acres of exhibits. Charlotte tourism officials said the event is the largest conference ever held in the city, topping the 2003 National Baptist Convention by about 20,000 people.

Other notable speakers during the conference include actor Chuck Norris, conservative commentator Glenn Beck, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, U.S. Rep. Mike Pence and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.

Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Center, which lobbies for gun-control laws, said politicians like Palin could be hurting themselves by fighting for greater gun rights.

"People are more likely, by 24 points, to vote against a candidate who is pushing for more guns in more places," Helmke said, citing a recent Brady Center poll. "I think that's a message that the politicians that are showing up here – Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, the rest of them – need to listen to."