Sen. McConnell to NRA: I'll expand gun rights in GOP-led Senate

Greg Nash

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) vowed Friday that he would work to expand the rights of gun owners if he was "given the opportunity to lead a new Senate majority next year."

Speaking at the National Rifle Association convention in Indianapolis, McConnell said he would work on behalf of legislation providing new privacy protections to gun owners.

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For McConnell, the appearance seemed designed to boost his conservative bona fides ahead of his upcoming reelection fight. 

His speech was full of red meat, accusing the Obama administration of being "determined to shut up their critics."

"These guys have shown a clear willingness to use the power of government to shut down anyone who disagrees with them," McConnell said.

He said the White House tried to "curb the rights they disagree with" and only believed in the parts of the Constitution "that are possible at Washington cocktail parties."

"The Obama administration needs to be made to understand that the American people are serious about protecting their rights," the Kentucky lawmaker said.

And the Republican leader looked to tie in the controversy over the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of conservative political groups, pitching both as a violation of Americans' rights.

McConnell has looked to rally support with the conservative base ahead of his 2014 primary and general election contests, appearing at the Conservative Political Action Committee earlier this year with a gun on stage. But the veteran legislator's reception seemed chillier than other speakers at the convention.

According to the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, some audience members yelled at McConnell to "go back to Kentucky."

Indeed, the speech at time seemed aimed at voters in his home state, as much as the NRA's national audience. McConnell took time to tout the benefits of the second amendment in his home state, bragging that "there are hundreds of Kentucky jobs generated by the firearms industry."