Kansas City, Mo. (CNSNews.com) - The National Rifle Association's Wayne LaPierre Saturday announced that the NRA will fight the McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill, saying the measure violates the First Amendment of the Constitution and criminalizes free speech in America.
"As long as there is a National Rifle Association, the First Amendment will stand in defense of the Second, and the Second will stand in defense of the First," LaPierre told a cheering crowd of NRA delegates at its annual convention in Kansas City, Missouri.
He then challenged Congress to include a provision in the bill to not exempt corporations from provisions restricting advocacy 60 days before an election.
LaPierre said if groups like the NRA can be silenced two months before an election, as proposed in the bill, then corporations should not be allowed to have commercials insupport of political candidates either.
"The NRA proposes the following language to be added to the McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill: that any expenditure for any corporation for a news story, commentary, editorial broadcast shall not qualify for the media exemption."
"Everyone of these corporations" LaPierre thundered, "Disney, Time-Warner, Viacom spends millions of dollars lobbying Congress trying to get out of them exactly what they want and they have exempted themselves from the bill."
The NRA leader also asked Congress to take a closer look at the proposed restrictions on campaign communications and issue advocacy. "I call on the House of Representatives, the people's house, to have a national debate on the First Amendment which we haven't had yet in relation to this McCain-Feingold bill," La Pierre said to applause.
Invoking the founders of America, LaPierre asked "What would our founding fathers think to see free speech declared a federal felony? And our war heroes eternally silenced in the soldiers cemetery. What would they say to see Americans handcuffed and hauled away to federal prison for expressing the political views of this great association?"
LaPierre then challenged the crowd, "Will you tolerate the criminalization of free speech in America? Will you stand in silence and permit America's first vote of no confidence in the Constitution of the United States? Will you let them pass a bill that if you speak out 20 or 30 days prior to an election you going to get the FBI descending on you, depending on the Department of Justice that we have?"
The delegates gave a resounding "no" to each question.
Underscoring the organization's comittment to fighting the campaign measure, LaPierre said if it passed as is, the NRA would "drop anchor in international waters just off the coast and broadcast the truth from our own TV towers. We'll tie a radio antenna to a hot air balloon, let 'er go a thousand feet straight up and we'll broadcast the truth on our own Radio Free America."
Following LaPierre's speech, NRA President Charlton Heston told the group he would run for a fourth term as NRA President. No one has announced any opposition to his candidacy.
After Heston's speech, in an unexpected move, Representative Bob Barr (R-Ga.), a member of the House Judiciary Committee and a staunch NRA supporter, took to the podium and announced he accepted the NRA's challenge on McCain-Feingold.
"I take up your challenge and all other freedom loving members of Congress and there are many, never enough, but there are many who truly understand the Constitution. We gladly accept your challenge to meet the double barrel assault on the Bill of Rights that has been launched by the McCain-Feingold bill," Barr said.
"This assault on the First and Second Amendment cannot go unanswered," said Barr, who called the legislation the "most serious and double barreled challenge to our Bill of Rights that any of us have witnessed in our lifetime." Barr's remarks drew a standing ovation from the audience.