DeLay: Guns important to American way of life
The House Majority Leader made no mention of the controversy circling him.
LOS ANGELES TIMES
HOUSTON -- U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay returned to the much-needed embrace of his home turf and his core supporters, capping a fiery convention of the National Rifle Association by telling the organization's leaders that guns are a critical instrument of keeping the peace and preserving the American way of life.
"It isn't just our homes and selves that need defending," he said Saturday night while delivering the convention's keynote speech. "It is our freedom. ... God gave it. The Constitution preserves it. And together we will defend it."
The NRA gave DeLay an antique-style, flintlock rifle. He held it above his head and echoed the words former NRA president Charlton Heston famously shouted when given his own commemorative gun: "From my cold, dead hands."
DeLay did not directly address the controversy swirling around him this spring.
The Texas Republican's appearance represented the apex of a convention where politicians and gun-rights advocates pulled few punches, berating and belittling Democrats, gun control advocates, the United Nations and the media, among others.
President Bush also delivered a message by videotape Saturday night to NRA leaders as 3,000 people dined on steak with cognac sauce. He pledged to fight new gun-control provisions and called on Congress to pass a measure that would grant gun manufacturers and dealers immunity from some lawsuits.
The measure's backers say it would protect the companies from frivolous lawsuits; critics say it would sacrifice public safety to reward the powerful gun lobby.
Inside the convention, DeLay was received with adulation and a standing ovation. ("I hope the national media saw that," he said, the only allusion to the controversy.)
DeLay has been one of the NRA's most stalwart supporters for more than 20 years, even fighting gun-control legislation that has considerable popular support, such as a program that gave cities money to buy guns back from residents. While some have suggested that DeLay should resign his leadership post, many NRA members at the convention blamed his problems on Democrats.
"It's just another target the liberals have found," said David Adams, a Richmond, Va., resident who attended the convention.