GOV. RICHARDSON: Thank you for allowing me to take this time to address the NRA "Celebration of American Values." Responsible gun ownership, the right of law abiding citizens to own guns, is, indeed, a historically-cherished American value and tradition. As a Western governor, I understand and support the Second Amendment. I am grateful to have received the formal endorsement of the NRA as a Congressman, and again as governor in 2006.
This position doesn't always make me the most popular guy in the room with certain audiences. But the reality is that New Mexico has an age-old history of hunting, sportsmanship, and other lawful shooting activities. It also has a proud history of defending the nation and its Constitution, both in times of conflict and peace. I have a long record, both as a Congressman and governor, as a defender of the rights of citizens to own guns. You may have heard that I not only supported New Mexico's "Concealed Carry" law, I have a permit myself.
As you know, I'm running for president. The 2008 election will be one of the most important elections we've ever had. Our country is adrift, divided and partisan, and we've lost our standing in the world. The next president must be able to bring people together to heal our deep divisions, and restore America to its place as a true global leader and beacon of hope for the world. We need change, and we need someone with the experience to get it done. I believe I am that person.
You have a lot at stake in this election as well. In recent years, our civil and personal rights have come under attack. As president, I will lead an all-out effort to restore and protect our rights, including the Second Amendment. I am a Democrat who will work hard for you, for the rights of all citizens, and to once again make America the land of individual opportunity and collective greatness.
Just as I do not hide from my audience my support for responsible gun ownership, I will not down-play my belief that we can, and must work together to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. We must work diligently to enforce existing laws and improve communications among law enforcement agencies. If we do, we will crack down on the real criminals. Then there will be less pressure on the rights of law abiding citizens like you and me who wish to own guns for protection, hunting or other recreation.
I'd like to thank your president, Wayne LaPierre, and the NRA for helping our Department of Public Safety provide high-quality fire arms for safety training programs for New Mexicans. I applaud your support of law enforcement across this country. As a governor, a Westerner, a supporter of our individual freedoms, and a Democrat, I urge all NRA members to stay involved in the election of candidates of both political parties. In America, we have a long and honorable tradition of solving our problems in a bipartisan manner. Your voice needs to be heard. When I'm president, it will be.
Today, I'm proud to join you in celebrating freedom, and I thank you for your support.