PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The National Rifle Association meetings are drawing thousands of people to downtown Pittsburgh, including politicians.

U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire, D-McCandless, was the only Pennsylvania congressman invited to speak to the convention. He reminded the NRA members why they are so powerful politically.

“You are the ones who contact your elected officials, who hold them accountable for their votes, who mobilize others in support of the cause,” he said.

That cause is embraced by potential presidential candidates like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich who spoke to KDKA Political Editor Jon Delano about the NRA.

“They are very principled, and they are non-partisan,” he said. “They are for people who believe in the right to bear arms, who believe in the Second Amendment, and who are willing to vote their convictions, and I have found that if you are straight with them that they are amazingly straight with you.”

Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum says the NRA’s focus on individual liberties ring true.

“This is a nanny state that has gone to far, and I think the American public is responding to it, and that’s how they’re responding to the NRA over the year because they’ve fought for these basic freedoms that are in our Constitution,” he said.

NRA member State Rep. Ted Harhai, D-Monessen, says NRA support helps political newcomers.

With an all-important presidential race next year and many close U.S. House and U.S. Senate seats on the ballot, 2012 will be a real test of the National Rifle Association’s political clout.

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