National Rifle Association Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre lashed out at members of the media and "political elites" during a Friday speech at the group's national convention in Houston, Texas Gov. Rick Perry showed off his marksmanship, and Sen. Ted Cruz challenged Vice President Joseph R. Biden to a debate about gun control.
"They think they know better than we do," Mr. LaPierre told delegates Friday afternoon. "They think they're smarter than we are."
More than 70,000 people are expected to attend the three-day convention in Houston, which includes a Saturday evening "Stand and Fight" rally.
"They've called gun owners just about every rotten, lousy, nasty, evil name in the book in a judgmental tone that quite honestly most Americans resent," Mr. LaPierre said. "We know how they play the game. President Obama or [New York Mayor] Michael Bloomberg or some other official trots out on national television to scold and shame us."
Mr. LaPierre called on various groups, one by one, in the audience, such as health care workers, students, teachers, retailers, firefighters, stay-at-home moms, members of the military and veterans to stand up.
He then invited the media to look around the room and "see if you can tell it straight."
"The media and the political elites can lie about us and demonize us all they want, but that won't stop us," he said. "We are Americans, we are proud of it, and we are going to defend our freedom, we promise you."
Texas Gov. Rick Perry raised some eyebrows with an introductory video that had the one-time presidential candidate blowing away targets with an AR-15.
Mr. Cruz, Texas Republican, later brought the house down, particularly when he issued an "invitation" to Mr. Biden, who has become the point man for Mr. Obama's efforts on gun control and crime.
"I would like to invite the vice president to an hour-long conversation and debate [on] how do we stop crime?'" he said. "And if Vice President Biden really believes the facts are on his side, that this is not simply an exercise in political power by the administration, then I would think he would welcome the opportunity to talk about the sources, the causes of violent crime, who's carrying it out and how we can do everything humanly possible to stop it."
Earlier Friday, NRA First Vice President James Porter, who takes over the group's top slot from David Keene on Monday, gave a short speech to a grassroots organizing meeting.
"This is not a battle about gun rights," Mr. Porter said, calling it "a culture war."
"[You] here in this room are the fighters for freedom. We are the protectors," said Mr. Porter, whose father was NRA president from 1959-1960, according to the organization's website.
The group is fresh off a big win over Mr. Obama on gun control, helping torpedo a Senate measure to expand gun-purchase background checks that was introduced after December's mass shooting at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school.
Mr. Obama and other advocates have vowed to continue their push for gun control despite the setback.
After Politico reported that Mr. Biden is mulling a new gun push on his own, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Friday that the vice president is a "key player" and "continues to play a leading role in that effort at the president's direction."
"Sometimes these efforts don't succeed initially, but especially when you have 85 or 90 percent of the American people supporting — in the case of background checks being expanded — a legislative proposal, this is going to get done," Mr. Carney said, adding that Mr. Obama "is committed to pressing for action to reduce gun violence and that includes pressing Congress to take action."
• This story is based in part on wire service reports.
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