Sen. Marco Rubio speaks during the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum at the 2015 NRA Annual Meeting in Nashville on Apr. 10, 2015.
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images
By Tessa Berenson
April 10, 2015

Republican presidential hopefuls talked about a lot of things other than guns at a National Rifle Association conference Friday.

Almost the entire GOP field of likely candidates spoke at the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action leadership forum: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal were all on the docket, among others.

And while each of them touched on gun rights and the Second Amendment, they all broadened the theme of freedom to speak about other issues that have cropped up in their stump speeches.

Many of them spoke about the Middle East: the threat from ISIS, President Obama’s foreign policy and the recent framework for a nuclear deal with Iran.

“We’ve got a president who calls … Iran a place we can do business with,” said Walker. “I want a Commander-in-Chief who will look the American people in the eye and say that radical Islamic terrorism is a threat and we’re going to do something about it.”

Perry struck a similar tone. “Terrorist regimes must be defeated by strength, not words,” he said. “This agreement with Iran doesn’t limit Iranian nuclear ambitions, it legitimizes it.”

Rubio echoed that argument: “Our president refuses to look the threat of radical Islam in its eye and call it by its name.”

And Bush added, “In the face of rising danger from Russia, Iran and ISIS, among others, our President is indecisive and weak.”

Carson, on the other hand, wove together the Second Amendment, ISIS and border security: “We think about people from Honduras and Mexico and places like that coming in, but there are people who are watching us they’re all over this world. They’re called radical extremist Islamic terrorists, and they’re going to get in here any way that they can. And when they get there we need to be able to fight them, particularly if we have an administration that won’t fight them we need to be able to fight them ourselves.”

Most of the presumptive candidates also hit on a hot domestic topic — religious freedom, and the controversy over the recent religious freedom law in Indiana.

Jindal didn’t even mention gun rights until almost midway through his speech, beginning instead with harsh words for liberal criticism of the the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. “It was an attack on the fundamental right to speech and association and the free exercise of religion,” he said, before tying it back to guns: “If these large forces can conspire to crush the First Amendment, it won’t be long before they come after the Second Amendment.”

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum added, “Freedom is under assault not by the gay and lesbian community, but by the Left in America … What is under assault today is the freedom to exercise your faith.”


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