PITTSBURGH – Vice President Dick Cheney (search) portrayed President Bush and himself as champions of the Second Amendment — and Democratic candidate John Kerry (search) as a potential threat to gun owners — in a speech at the National Rifle Association's 133rd annual convention Saturday.
"John Kerry's approach to the Second Amendment has been to regulate, regulate and then regulate some more," Cheney said, citing votes against legislation that would protect gun makers from lawsuits and in favor of allowing federal authorities to randomly inspect gun dealers without notice.
Cheney lauded the NRA (search) for its safety programs and said the best way to prevent gun crimes was to enforce existing laws. Federal prosecutions of crimes committed with guns increased 68 percent under President Bush, he told the crowd.
Bush "has shown you respect, earned your vote and appreciates your support," Cheney said.
Cheney spoke for about 25 minutes after he was greeted by a standing ovation punctuated by chants of "Four more years."
Cheney did not address the federal assault weapons ban, which expires in September, and which the NRA maintains has been ineffective.
Kerry, in a statement issued before Cheney's address, said "most voters don't know that (Bush and Cheney) are standing against major police organizations and breaking their promise to renew the assault weapons ban — which helps keep military-style assault weapons (search) out of the hands of criminals and terrorists."
Earlier in the day, Tom Mauser, whose son, Daniel, was killed with an assault weapon in the Columbine High School (search) killings five years ago, tried to enter the convention hall where the NRA was meeting, seeking to urge Cheney to support extending the assault weapons ban.
Mauser was turned away by a security guard as several conventioneers applauded. A couple of conventioneers yelled "Get a life" and "Vote for Bush."
Mauser, who marched three blocks to the convention hall literally in his son's shoes, said before the march that continuing the ban would be common sense.
"What is the useful purpose to these weapons? ... They are the weapons of gangs, drug lords and sick people." Mauser said. "It is a weapon of war and we don't want this war on our streets."
Mauser called the NRA "an organization with a Field-and-Stream-magazine membership but a Soldier-of-Fortune-magazine leadership."
The NRA expected up to 60,000 people at its weekend convention, dubbed "Freedom's Steel." The association, which endorsed Bush and Cheney in the 2000 election, will not endorse a candidate until the fall, spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said.