Reno, Nev. Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia wowed the National Rifle Assn. as a Democrat who wants more guns and chastised his own party for failing to recognize the social and political reach of gun issues.
"There is nowhere I'd rather be tonight than right here with you, on the picket line of freedom's defense," Miller told more than 2,000 NRA members in a speech at Saturday night's banquet.
Only about half the crowd at the NRA's 131st annual meeting at the Reno Hilton hotel-casino stood when Miller was introduced as the first Democrat to give a keynote address to the group in more than a decade.
But nearly all rose to give a 30-second standing ovation by the time the popular former two-term governor finished his speech touting the NRA's 4.2 million members as the epitome of "mainstream America."
"Like many of you, I've got more guns than I need, but not as many as I want," Miller said.
"Now that may sound a bit confusing to some a Democrat wanting more guns," he said, explaining he's a life member of the NRA with an A-plus voting record from the group, "and I'm darned proud of it."
"What many do not understand is that the gun issue is not just about guns. It's about values. It's about setting priorities. It's about personal freedom. It's about trust," he said.
Miller said 73 percent of the Georgians he surveyed in a poll for his 1994 gubernatorial re-election bid agreed with the statement: "Whenever I hear politicians talking about gun control, it makes me wonder if they understand my values or my way of life."