INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Several potential Republican contenders for president will court gun-rights supporters at the National Rifle Association's annual convention Friday.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum are set to speak at the convention's leadership forum, a kind of political pep rally and strategy meeting the NRA considers one of its premier events of the year.
They'll be speaking to thousands of NRA members at a time when the gun lobby is arguably stronger than ever. And each possible 2016 candidate is expected to highlight his own role in pushing back gun-control measures.
Jindal approved several gun rights bills last year, including one that creates stiff penalties for those who knowingly publish the names of gun permit holders. In 2010, he signed a measure that allowed concealed handguns in churches, mosques and synagogues.
Rubio opposed limiting gun rights after the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. But he also saw his NRA grade drop from an A to a B+ amid criticism of his stance on some gun-rights legislation.
Pence approved a measure this year that allowed guns in locked vehicles on school property.
Addressing the same forum in 2013, Santorum thanked the crowd for fighting back when "freedom was under assault" following Sandy Hook. That's when gun-control efforts, including background checks for all gun purchasers and a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, were defeated in Congress.
More than 70,000 people are expected to attend the three-day convention in Indianapolis. Gun-control supporters also are making their voices heard, holding rallies outside the event.
An Associated Press-GfK poll in December found that 52 percent of Americans favored stricter gun laws, 31 percent wanted them left as they were, and 15 percent said they should be loosened.