Let's be honest. I don't know my butt from my elbow when it comes to guns," Beck told a crowd of about 5,000 people attending the National Rifle Association's Celebration of American Values Banquet last night at the Kentucky International Convention Center.
So Beck isn't exactly a weapons expert, but he is a new member of the NRA.
"I don't believe in organizations. I believe in rights. And I joined this year as a lifetime member of the NRA," he said as the crowd cheered. Beck is a former Top 40 disc jockey who now hosts a syndicated radio show and a self-titled television program on CNN's Headline News station.
During his speech, Beck took aim at the two major political parties.
"Republicans, they've sold their soul to power. They've sold their souls to money. Democrats, I believe they've sold their souls to Karl Marx," he said.
"Where in the hell are the real Americans?" he asked. "A lot of them are in this room tonight."
Beck said he believes citizens disapprove of Congress and President Bush, the latter less than the former, because "we're on to them. … We like lawyers, hookers and crack dealers more than we like Washington."
Beck also set his sights on presidential hopefuls Barack Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton and John McCain, prompting laughter and applause.
"This is the best we got?" he said. "It's like we've got (the Three Stooges) Larry, Moe and Curly."
Beck wore a cummerbund with a skull and crossbones on it and said several people had asked if he was a pirate.
"Nope," he answered, "I'm a politician. Raping, plundering, looting -- I'm a politician. …Where is the politician that will just be honest with us?"
Near the end of his speech, Beck choked up when he spoke about taking his daughter to Princeton University. He recalled an emotion-filled moment when he stopped and considered his daughter's success, as well as his own, while taking her to campus.
Beck said he once struggled to pay the rent but was now able to pay his daughter's four-year tuition in full.
"Only. In. America," Beck said, clenching his fists, as the audience stood and cheered for the fifth time.
Beck was asked to be the keynote speaker because he "is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. He truly believes in freedom," said Andrew Arulanandam, the NRA's public affairs director.
Before Beck's speech, attendees feasted on salads made with Kentucky Limestone bibb lettuce, seared filet of beef, grilled chicken with papaya mango chutney and chocolate pate with fresh strawberries.
After dinner, they watched a video tribute to the late Charlton Heston, the only NRA president to serve three consecutive terms.
Audience members rose to their feet at the conclusion of the video, which showed Heston holding up a rifle and uttering his most famous exclamation, "From my cold, dead hands!"
Then they watched a short documentary about Hurricane Katrina victims who armed themselves to deal with looters during the natural disaster; their weapons were confiscated by police when they couldn't provide proof of registration.
The audience cheered when a black female Baptist minister looked into the camera and said, "I wasn't scared. I had my Bible and I had my gun."
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal received the NRA's Harlon B. Carter Award for service to the Second Amendment. When he was a congressman, Jindal helped to craft legislation that prohibits local officials from confiscating guns from law-abiding citizens in times of national emergency.
"Usually, when you pass a law, you want to celebrate. But I didn't," he said during his acceptance speech.
"How in the world did we get to the point where we have to pass a law to protect our rights?"
Reporter Angie Fenton can be reached at (502) 582-7143.
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5th Generation TEXAN
12th Generation American (sailed over before 1600)