By Gromer Jeffers
In the heat of a campaign, every politician can count on unconditional love from some groups.
Such is the case with Rick Perry and the gun enthusiasts of Texas.
To no one's surprise, Perry scored the critical endorsements Thursday of the National Rifle Association and the Texas State Rifle Association at a Dallas gun store.
At a news conference that seemed more like a family gathering than anything else, Perry was hailed as the best governor for Second Amendment rights in recent memory.
"Everybody knows Rick Perry is pro-gun," said Chris Cox, an NRA leader. "The coyote population knows you're pro-gun," he added, turning to a blushing Perry.
By now, everyone jammed into the McClelland Gun Shop in East Dallas to witness Perry accept the endorsement had heard about Perry's encounter with a wily coyote.
Legend - one offered by the governor himself - has it that Perry, while running in Austin with the family dog, killed a coyote with a scoped pistol because the animal gave his pooch a threatening look.
Perry says he jogs with a gun to shoot snakes and other scary critters.
And though his bizarre story about the coyote still hasn't been independently confirmed, he went on about the importance of gun rights, while alluding to animal shooting.
"I'm kind of fond of the Second Amendment so I can take care of my family's pets, if need be," he said as the crowd laughed and cheered.
Perry has an A+ rating with the Texas State Rifle Association and is part of the group's highest circle of members.
He has an active permit to carry a concealed weapon, and on Thursday he urged a reporter to get one as well, if only to get through new checkpoints at the Capitol much quicker.
"Those individuals are seven times less likely to be involved in a criminal act," he said. "Regardless of that reality, our national political dialogue is still divided between two groups. Those that respect and defend individual freedom and those who think big government is to equipped to make decisions for us."
Perry even turned gun salesman, offering a reporter advice about the best model to ward off coyotes in Oak Cliff.
"It's another reason you should get your concealed handgun license now. Get it before it's too late, brother," he said. Endorsing a Ruger LCP, he added: "I will highly recommend that you put the crimson laser sight on it. I'm thinking you may not have had that much experience, so I'm going to help you out a little bit. You just shoot where the dot is."
And so it went, Perry waxing about guns and states' rights as rifles and handguns were displayed around him.
It's not that his Democratic rival, Bill White, is a foe of the gun rights advocates, though Cox did criticize the former Houston mayor for his membership in a group called Mayors Against Illegal Guns. White left the group in 2009.
"Bill White, a gun owner, is a strong supporter of the bedrock constitutional right of gun ownership and he opposes new restrictions on it," White spokeswoman Katy Bacon said in a written statement.
But it's hard to find a public official more enthusiastic about guns than Perry.
At a rally in Richardson on Tuesday, Perry spent some down time telling Dallas County Republican Party Chairman Jonathan Neerman that he preferred shooting to playing golf.
"While other politicians often use guns as a prop, he really loves them," Neerman said. "He's passionate about guns."
Jane Snapp, an NRA recruiter and member who lives in Duncanville, said Perry is committed to Second Amendment rights.
"He walks the walk," Snapp said.
Dave Woodstock says Perry's stance on guns is in concert with his other positions.
"He's got that anti-Washington stance," said Woodstock, who lives in Rowlett. "He's American first and Texas second, and he looks out for us."