ST. LOUIS, Mo. - In a speech at the National Rifle Association's annual meeting, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney sought to reassure the crowd that he will be a strong defender of gun owners' rights and ally concerns among NRA members that he is too moderate.
"We need a president who will stand up for the rights of hunters and sportsmen, and those seeking to protect their homes and their families. President Obama has not. I will," Romney said. "And if we are going to safeguard our Second Amendment, it is time to elect a president who will defend the rights President Obama ignores or minimizes."
Romney, who has had a rocky relationship with the NRA over the years, did not specifically address Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, which is at the center of the Trayvon Martin shooting controversy. He chose to focus much of his speech not on gun ownership rights, but instead on restoring and protecting "freedoms" through fidelity to the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. And he went on the attack against Obama for what he called an "assault on freedoms."
"This president is moving us away from our Founders' vision," Romney said. "Instead of limited government, he's leading us toward limited freedom and limited opportunity."
Calling tax hikes an assault on economic freedom, Romney went after the president for his proposal to raise taxes on the richest Americans with the so-called Buffett Rule, which would require households earning over $1 million annually to pay a minimum tax of 30 percent. Romney also slammed Obama for what he called an administration proposal to raise marginal tax rates from 35 percent to 40 percent - although the president has in fact proposed no such tax hike.
"Congress does not need more money to spend," Romney said. "Congress needs to learn to spend less."
Romney's focus on restoring "freedoms" stretched across economic, religious, and personal issues, with calls to reduce environmental regulations, repeal the Obama health care law and ensure that conservatives are appointed to the high court.
Romney scoffed at the president's comments that it would be "extraordinary" and "unprecedented" for the Supreme Court to strike down the Affordable Care Act, arguing that judicial review requires the court to strike down any law violating the Constitution, which he believes the act does.
"That's the problem with people who view the Constitution as living and evolving, not timeless and defining," he said. "They never want to explain just who it is that's going to decide what the Constitution means and in what way they would have it evolve."