Two top Arizona Republicans argued Friday that the escalating violence along the Mexican border should not be used as an excuse for new regulation of firearms.
"The gun control advocates keep coming up with new arguments to restrict our Second Amendment rights," Gov. Jan Brewer said. The most recent, she told the annual convention of the National Rifle Association in Phoenix, relates to violence along the border in Mexico and the question of whether that guns used are coming from this country.
"Well, I'm not having any of that," she told her audience to cheers. She said the problems of the border are being used to "cloud the issue" of border security.
"New gun laws are not the answer to the issue of increasing border violence in Mexico," Brewer said. "The issue is to secure the border, and leave the Second Amendment freedoms of United (States) citizens alone."
Sen. John McCain, speaking later Friday afternoon, picked up on the same theme.
He praised Mexican President Felipe Calderon, saying he has "bravely confronted the cartels." And McCain said the United States must do all it can to assist him.
"But let's not use this terrible problem for both Mexico and the United States as an excuse to advance a separate agenda aimed at restricting the rights of Americans," McCain said.
The senator attacked claims by the Obama administration that 90 percent of the arms seized from Mexican drug cartels came from the United States.
"More accurate is the statistic that 90 percent of the guns the Mexican government has asked our government to trace are of U.S. origin," McCain explained, not 90 percent of arms seized. "The fact is that weapons manufactured in the United States are actually stamped 'Made in the USA,' which allows them to be more easily traced than those manufactured in other countries."
And McCain said efforts to restrict gun ownership in this country will not stop Mexican cartels from acquiring weapons and ammunition from other countries, "just as the drug cartels have done in their acquisition of advanced weapons such as anti-tank missiles, rocket propelled grenades, fully automatic machine guns, mortars and even IEDs," none of which are legally available to civilians in the United States.
Not all of the talk was about guns, at least not directly. Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee, singled out members of the Obama administration and some congressional Democrats for special attention, each time eliciting "boos" from his audience as he mentioned their names.
One of those on that list was Janet Napolitano, the national homeland security chief. He recalled how she approved the release of a memo last month warning that "right-wing extremists, concerned about government restrictions on the right to own firearms, are prime candidates for conducting violent acts of domestic terrorism."
"It's so stupid, I won't even go there," Steele said.
The Democratic administration and certain members of Congress weren't the only ones called out. NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre added another group to the enemies list: the media.
"The national media has sensed an opening," he told the audience, referring specifically to the election of Obama. "They're back with their same tricks."
LaPierre said what the public sees - and does not see - is being controlled according to a predetermined agenda. He said readers and viewers are fed a steady dose of stories about criminal misuse of firearms, school shootings and guns in the hands of the mentally ill.
"The story of good people with guns is never told," LaPierre said.
"The story of bad people with guns is told repeatedly because it serves their agenda," he continued. "It's a ploy to force American culture to join a world standard of behavior."