The Republican, a staunch gun rights advocate and sometimes pistol-carrying jogger, said before Saturday night’s race he thought it was “great” to have the NRA as a sponsor.
“They’re wise enough to come to Texas and spend money,” Perry told The Associated Press. “This is a great opportunity for state of Texas to get to enjoy NASCAR. We are greatly appreciative that the National Rifle Association chose to underwrite it.”
Perry, who was set to wave the green flag for the first night race of the Sprint Cup season, sponsored Bobby Labonte’s car in the spring Texas race in 2010 during his third gubernatorial campaign. He is the longest-serving governor in state history.
The NRA 500 comes as the U.S. Senate weighs legislation intended to reduce gun violence in the wake of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last December.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., recently called on the Fox network to not broadcast the race and questioned the Victory Lane tradition at Texas, where the winner gets a cowboy hat and can fire six-shooters loaded with blanks into the air.
“Every state ought to be free to decide how their people want to live,” Perry said when asked about Murphy’s request. “I’m not going to up to Connecticut and tell Connecticut people how to live, and I don’t suppose the senator from Connecticut is going to tell people in Texas how to live. We respect their rights.”
Perry often carried a pistol while jogging when he lived in a wooded area near Austin while the Governor’s Mansion was being renovated. He said he was on one of those runs when he shot a coyote that was threatening his daughter’s dog. That happened not long his campaign sponsored the No. 71 of Labonte, who grew up in South Texas.