He was generally well-received, with polite (though not rousing) standing ovations both before and after. For the most part, he reinforced his theme that the audience may not agree with him 100 percent of the time, but they both have a lot in common. He spent most of the speech emphasizing his record fighting crime and talking about how the federal government needs to do a better job prosecuting gun crime, but that it shouldn’t be taking guns away from law-abiding citizens. He said the Parker decision clarified his thinking on the issue, and discussed the importance of appointing strict constructionists who will understand that no matter what their personal opinion, the founders intended to give Americans the right to keep and bear arms. He also talked about the Castle doctrine–that “people have a right to protect themselves in their own homes.” He also used another oppourtunity to blast the Senate dems for voting against yesterday’s condemnation of attacks on Petraeus–saying “they define for us the left-wing of the left-wing.”
In the Q&A, he was asked about whether he still supported the lawsuit he filed in NYC against gun manufacturers, and flipped on the issue. He said, at the time, he was focused on using every law he could, and every interpretation of the law, to reduce crime, but that since then, the lawsuit has taken “twists and turns” and so he no longer supports the current version. He said the Parker decision and 9/11 also changed his thinking on it–the connection to Sept. 11 will probably raise questions among Giuliani cynics. Also, just yesterday, he had punted on the lawsuit question, saying he doesn’t discuss pending litigation.
With all this said, I think he did about as well as can be expected in this crowd. Before the speech, I noticed a stack of anti-Rudy flyers outlining his past statements on guns. He will never win its distributors over, and his statements today will open him up to flip-flop charges, but if he didn’t attend conservatives would be attacking him for ignoring such a constituency. His coming here was an attempt to reassure gun owners, and telling them he thinks they matter. “To get elected, I need your support,” he said. “It is important that we reach out to everybody.” In conclusion, he empasized his views on other issues: terrorism, growth of government, etc. and suggested that he was the best candidate “overall” and the most electable. He said he wants their support, but, “mostly, I’d like for us to respect each other.”
MORE: Also, in the middle of the speech Giuliani’s cell phone rang. He pulled it out of his pocket, looked at it, and said (paraphrasing) “It’s my wife.” He answered the phone. “Hi honey, I’m giving a speech to the NRA right now so I can’t talk, but have a safe trip, I love you.” I had heard that he had done something like this at a speech a few months ago and found it hard to believe, and the thought was cringe-inducing at the time. But in actuality, it didn’t come off as bad, and made the audience chuckle. I wouldn’t recommend making it too much of a habit, though.