Orlando, Fla. (CNSNews.com) - Florida Gov. Jeb Bush credits the National Rifle Association with putting his older brother in the Oval Office. His comment drew a standing ovation from more than 3,000 NRA members who gathered in Orlando Saturday night to hear Gov. Bush give the keynote address at the NRA's annual convention.
"Were it not for your active involvement, it's safe to say my brother would not be president of the United States," the president's brother said, noting that exit polling showed that 48 percent of voters in the 2000 election were gun owners.
Gov. Bush assured the crowd that he and his brother both believe that the Second Amendment guarantees "an individual right" for law abiding Americans to own and carry firearms. Such a right, he added, is essential to guarantee freedom.
"The Second Amendment is called 'America's First Freedom' because it is the one we turn to when all else fails," Bush explained.
He also linked private gun ownership to the U.S. response to terrorism, noting that immediately after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Americans in increasing numbers purchased guns to defend themselves and their families.
"The Second Amendment is America's original 'Homeland Security Act,'" Bush said.
As countless speakers had done throughout the four-day NRA annual meeting and exhibits, the governor also connected the NRA's support for President Bush with the liberation of the Iraqi people.
"The sound of our guns," he said, "is the sound of freedom."
The NRA's Executive Vice President, Wayne LaPierre, presented Bush with a flintlock rifle, the group's traditional gift to its keynote speakers.
"In keeping with our tradition of giving a great American rifle to a great American patriot," LaPierre said, "I am proud to present this."
Bush thanked the NRA for holding their meetings in Florida, joking about the positive impact theirs and other such meetings have on the state's economy.
"Come back often," he said, smiling. "You're the reason we don't have an income tax."
Earlier Saturday, a group of approximately two dozen protesters and staff members of the "Million Mom March" gathered outside the Orange County Convention Center.
"The activists that are gathering here aren't interested in banning guns," said Rob Wilcox, a staff member.
He admitted to CNSNews.com , however, that the group does support an extension of the ban on hundreds of semi-automatic firearms commonly used for hunting and sport shooting, which the marchers call an "assault weapons" ban. They are also opposed to federal legislation supported by the NRA that would prohibit victims of criminal violence committed using a gun from suing gun makers for the actions of criminals.
Second Amendment supporters claim the lawsuits are designed to bankrupt the gun industry, allowing opponents of gun ownership to achieve through the courts the de facto gun bans they have been unable to get passed through Congress or state legislatures.
'What about the other 999,976?'
One of those NRA members, who would identify himself only as "Ken from here in Florida" was observed counting the two-dozen protesters. Out of more than four million NRA members, 55,000 attended the some part of the four-day meetings and exhibits.
CNSNews.com asked "Ken" what he thought of the Million Mom Marchers.
"This is America," he said. "They have a right to be here and to state their case just like we do.
"I just wonder," Ken added with a smile on his face, "what happened to the other 999,976 of them?"
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