ABC News' Bret Hovell Reports: Seizing an opportunity to set himself apart from his two top rivals for the Republican nomination, Senator John McCain took swipes at Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney Friday, in a speech to a National Rifle Association forum.
Telling the crowd at the NRA's "Celebration of American Values" meeting in Washington, DC, that he was a candidate of consistency on the Second Amendment right to bear arms, McCain took issue with Giuliani's positions on gun control while he was mayor of New York City.
"A number of big-city mayors decided it was more important to blame the manufacturers of a legal product than it was to control crime in their own cities," McCain said, talking about "frivolous lawsuits" that attempted to hold liable companies that make and sell guns used in violent crimes.
Giuliani has made his success at lowering the crime rates in New York City one of the centerpieces of his campaign.
McCain also took a jab at another competitor, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. Detailing what he described as "three myths used by politicians to excuse their support for gun control," McCain harkened back to remarks Romney made â€“ and McCain ridiculed â€“ earlier this spring, when describing the "hunting myth."
"If you show your bona fides by hunting ducks or varmints or quail," McCain said, "it makes up for support for gun control." Romney, who had been challenged his hunting record had memorably stated that he had hunted rabbits and other "small varmints."
Calling the audience a "sophisticated crowd" that knows politicians, McCain told the audience that his record on gun rights is clear.
"You know you need to dig into a politician's record to find out where they really stand. You know some will change their position or have little record for you to judge," McCain said at the beginning of his speech. "That is not the case with me."
But while he took the opportunity to attack his fellow Republicans for their positions on guns he made it clear that life under a Democratic president would be far worse.
"Just because they don't talk about gun control doesn't mean they don't want gun control," McCain said of Democrats. "Let's be clear. If Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama or John Edwards are elected president, they will go after the rights of law abiding gun owners -- just as Bill Clinton did when he was president."
McCain has spent most of this week arguing in the Senate for a continued troop presence in Iraq. Republicans voted down two Democrat-backed attempts to change the course in Iraq.
As he was turning his speech toward the issue of the war, McCain was interrupted by anti-war protestors. Two women chanting "bring the troops home" were dragged out of the hall by security.
"Well my friends," he said when the commotion died down, "we beat you yesterday, we beat you the day before, we'll beat you today and we'll beat you tomorrow. We won't choose to lose. We won't choose to lose this conflict."