CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Sarah Palin told NRA members meeting here that the only reason President Obama and his allies aren't trying to limit gun ownership rights is the fear of a political backlash.
"Don't doubt for a minute that, if they thought they could get away with it, they would ban guns and ban ammunition and gut the Second Amendment," Palin told the annual NRA gathering Friday. She urged some 9,000 NRA members to "stop them in their tracks."
The NRA's "Celebration of American Values" event was part political rally, part Tea Party gathering, with a parade of mostly Republican warm-up acts before Palin, the day's star, spoke. An NRA member, she electrified the crowd with a speech that defended Alaska, the Second Amendment and America, and attacked President Obama, the "lamestream media," and gun control activists -- "anti-Second Amendment rights activists," she called them.
While some might dismiss her as an "NRA gun-nut chick," she said, those folks don't get it. "Criminals are, of course, to blame for the crimes," she said. "It's the bad guys, not the piece of metal." All gun bans do is "take them away from law-abiding citizens."
Palin said Second Amendment rights – which "protect the weak from the strong" -- are "so important especially" for women and minorities.
In front of this friendly crowd that interrupted her speech with applause and stood for much of it, she attacked hypocritical "celebrities, Hollywood types," who produce violent "shoot 'em-up action films." They employ armed bodyguards and live in gated communities, she said, but "have a problem with you owning a gun to protect you and your family."
"Those left-wing groups are supposed to be so tolerant of everybody's lifestyle, but they're intolerant of our lifestyle."
Palin took a comedy break midway through her speech to embrace her "redneck" spirit, saying that some jokes she has heard "aren't funny, these are me." If shopping for dinner involves an orange vest or camo, then you're a redneck? That's me, she said.
But, turning her remarks toward politics and November, she said, "I can't wait for these midterm elections . . . We'll show them what we think of this fundamental transformation of America that we have been promised."
Chelsey Vanderpool of San Diego gave her a thumbs-up. "She seems honest, a real person," said the 25-year-old student, who has served in the Navy. Her husband is deployed and most of her family is military, she told me.
While none of the other speakers had the star power of Palin, a few got ovations for choice one-liners.
Ken Blackwell, former Ohio secretary of state and the author, with Ken Klukowski, of "The Blueprint: Obama's Plan to Subvert the Constitution and Build an Imperial Presidency":
"Rights are gifts from God, not grants of state."
Former United Nations ambassador John Bolton (the U.N. got booed):
"Today we've got a different kind of president, the first post-American president."
Michael Reagan, radio host and son of President Ronald Reagan:
"Liberals are like termites, eating away at the foundation of this country every day. That is their job."
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.):
"When our freedoms are threatened, battle is our calling."
Lt. Col. Oliver North:
"If there was no NRA, then we would have to invent one."
Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.):
I am "a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order."
Just a few Democrats got face time, and they spent it shoring up their gun-loving bona fides. Rep. Heath Shuler of North Carolina spoke about NASCAR's moonshine-running roots and the joys of father-and-son hunting excursions. "I don't think there's another member of Congress who buys more ammunition in a year than I do," he said.