Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani presented himself to members of the the nation's largest gun owners' advocacy group, the National Rifle Association, a group he once likened to "extremists," Friday.
Leaving behind his former position calling for stricter gun control, the former mayor of New York attempted to reassure an estimated 500 lifetime members of the NRA that he supports the Second Amendment's right to bear arms.
"I'm very happy to be here in front of the NRA, because there are a lot of things that you and I have in common," Giuliani said. "There are probably a few things we disagree about, but there are many more things that we have in common."
In a 20-minute address, the former mayor attempted to distance himself from his previous position supporting the Brady bill and a ban on assault weapons, and an effort to hold gun manufacturers liable in court for gun crimes.
In 2000, as mayor of New York City, Giuliani went after gun manufacturers, filing a lawsuit against companies like Smith & Wesson, Glock and Colt to hold them accountable for violent crimes involving firearms.
And in a 1995 interview with PBS' Charlie Rose, the former mayor likened the NRA members to "extremists," calling their defense of assault weapons "a terrible, terrible mistake."
Asked whether he still believed that gun companies should be held liable for gun crimes, Giuliani distanced himself, saying, "I think that lawsuit has gone in a direction that I probably don't agree with at this point."
Remade as a 2008 Republican presidential hopeful, Giuliani made a states' rights argument before the NRA crowd, and pledged to appoint "strict constructionist" judges to the Supreme Court who would uphold the Constitution. suggesting that restrictive gun laws suitable for larger metropolises may not be necessary in rural communities.
Touting his record on reducing crime as mayor, Giuliani positioned himself as a crime fighter pledging to strengthen the enforcement of laws.
"You never get a candidate you agree with 100 percent -- I'm not sure I even agree with myself 100 percent," he said. "You have to figure out who's electable, who can win."
A testament to the power and influence of the NRA, all the leading Republican presidential hopefuls made their '08 case — either in person or via video — to the invite-only crowd at the Capital Hilton in Washington, D.C., in a forum billed as a discussion of "Second Amendment Rights as a Core American Value."
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson -- the only Democratic presidential hopeful invited to the forum -- is addressing the group in a video message.
At the gathering today, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., delivered a swipe at Giuliani — who once likened the NRA to extremists.
"For more than two decades, I've opposed the efforts of the anti-gun crowd to ban guns, ban ammunition, ban magazines and paint-gun owners as some kind of fringe group, dangerous in 'modern' America. Some even call you 'extremists,'" McCain said today, referencing a 1995 comment made by Giuliani.
"My friends, gun owners are not extremists. You are the core of modern America. You are pretty used to hearing aspirants for public office come before you and pledge fealty to the cause of the Second Amendment," McCain said.