COLUMBUS, Ohio - Paul Ryan warned a group of hunters and fishermen this evening that he "shudder(s)" to think what President Obama would do "if he never has to face the voters ever again."
"You see the federal government already infringing upon the First Amendment right to religious liberty," Ryan said, referring to the federal mandate that all employers include insurance coverage for birth control.
"I see the president put these kind of regulations out there in a tough election year that could cost him votes, I wonder, I shudder as a gun owner, seeing his record when he was in the Illinois State Senate, what would he do if he never has to face the voters ever again?" Ryan said. "These are the kinds of questions we think about.
"The next president will appoint a lot of different judges and these are lifetime appointments," he said. "If you want to make sure that judges respect our Second Amendment rights, you need a president who respects those rights as well."
Speaking at the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance's Annual "Save Our Heritage" banquet, the GOP vice presidential nominee stressed that his ticket would "respect the Second Amendment."
Ryan is an avid hunter and an accomplished bow hunter and this state's season for bow hunting kicked off today. He was welcomed into the group of fellow sportsmen with a gift of a 20 gauge shot gun.
Ryan grabbed the gun and held it, but then gave it back citing congressional ethics rules. He donated it to the silent auction, which already had a hunting hog decoy, South African safari, and Alaska fishing trip up for grabs.
He told the group to "remember one thing: we are all taxpayers."
"That means we as taxpayers own our public land," Ryan said. "Hunters are the original conservationists. Bureaucrats more and more these days think that public lands have to be protected from hunters. I myself see it another way; I think hunters need to be protected by the bureaucrats."
The House Budget chairman was clearly comfortable talking to the group, mentioning that he takes his family hunting and telling the crowd that his 10-year-old daughter, Liza - for whom he bought a hunting outfit last week - would begin hunting this year.
To cheers from the crowd, he warned the audience "to remember…there are people, some of whom work in the federal government, that don't believe in open access to our public lands, who don't agree with this heritage" and the "right to keep and bear arms" is an "individual right."
While Ryan is an avid hunter and the former chair of the sportsmen caucus in the House of Representatives, his running mate is not. Mitt Romney was widely ridiculed in his last presidential campaign when he originally called himself a "lifelong hunter," but then in April of 2007 admitted he wasn't "a big game hunter."
"I've always been a rodent and rabbit hunter," Romney said. "Small varmints, if you will. I began when I was 15 or so and I have hunted those kinds of varmints since then."
But, before Ryan took to the stage, Rob Keck, a supporter and director of conservation at Bass Pro Shops as well as the hot of a television outdoors show, sung Romney's praises as a leader, giving him a strong endorsement and pitching him to the audience, but also as a hunter, while still admitting that "Mitt did not grow up hunting."
"The fall a year ago I had the opportunity to share three days of elk and pheasant hunting with Governor Romney," Keck told the audience while photos of that hunt flashed on screens above the stage. "Well let me tell you, Mitt's a fun guy in camp, and he's a fun guy out in the field. But more importantly, what I experienced was that he was tough, rugged, decisive and has a clear mind and vision and shares the same strong family and God-fearing values of life that I do and I think many of you do.
"Admittedly, Mitt did not grow up hunting. He doesn't claim to be an avid hunter," Keck said. "But I can tell you in those days that I spent with him in a hunting camp, and believe me as I'm sure you know you get to know an awful lot about a person when you get time in the field and in a camp, he doesn't claim anything more than he understands hunting and angling's economic and political engine - that powers America - and I might mention he's one heck of a shot on ring-neck pheasants, too."
During Romney's primary campaign he said he did "not believe in new laws restricting gun ownership and gun use." But, as governor of Massachusetts, he signed into law the first state ban on assault weapons in 2004, just as the federal version was about to lapse. Although some gun right activists are critical of the move, Romney did have the support of some gun rights groups when he signed the legislation.
Ryan heads back to the East Coast Saturday night ahead of a full day of fundraisers in Connecticut on Sunday. He is scheduled to continue fundraising in New York City Monday before traveling to Iowa for a two-day bus tour.
This post has been updated.