Mitt Romney gave a keynote speech at the National Rifle Association (NRA) this afternoon, but you wouldn’t know it by listening to his speech, as his remarks had almost nothing to do with guns.
In fact, he mentioned the word “gun” just once — the same number of times he referenced the Second Amendment. The only other time he mentioned firearms was when he read the full name of the NRA. Instead, Romney delivered a speech of platitudes on economic and religious “freedom” (a word he mentioned 31 times).
Perhaps it’s not surprising that Romney doesn’t have much to say to gun-rights activists, as his record should be anathema to them. As with virtually every other conceivable policy, Romney’s conservatism on gun rights is new.
In 2002 he said, “We do have tough gun laws in Massachusetts — I support them. I won’t chip away at them. I believe they help protect us, and provide for our safety.” The NRA has fought many of those laws.
As governor of in 2005, he signed into law a permanent ban on assault riffles, saying, “Deadly assault weapons have no place in Massachusetts.” “They are instruments of destruction with the sole purpose of hunting down and killing people.” The NRA opposes similar legislation on the federal level.
When he ran for president for the first time in 2007, Romney said, “I have a gun of my own. I go hunting myself. I’m a member of the NRA and believe firmly in the right to bear arms.” That turned out to not be true. A few days later he said he did not, in fact, own guns, but his son did and he had used them “from time to time.”
That year, he also infamously said, “I’ve made it very clear, I’ve always been a, if you will, rodent and rabbit hunter all right. Small, small varmints, if you will. … More than two times.”
Romney has since bought two shotguns, not to repeat the same mistake.
When running for the Senate in 1990s, he supported a bill that imposed a five-day wait for people buying guns. “That’s not going to make me the hero of the NRA,” he told the Boston Herald. Indeed.