NRA chief in rallying cry for 'culture war'
The incoming president of the National Rifle Association (NRA) has told attendees of its conference they are freedom fighters in a "culture war".
James Porter, who takes over the top job on Monday, issued the rallying cry at the NRA's annual meeting in Texas.
Tens of thousands of people are expected at the gun rights group's event, which comes weeks after the NRA helped stop a firearms control bill.
Gun control groups plan counter-demonstrations in Houston.
"This is not a battle about gun rights,'' Mr Porter told attendees on Friday, saying it was "a culture war".
"[You] here in this room are the fighters for freedom," the Alabama lawyer added. "We are the protectors."
About 70,000 people were expected to attend the conference in Houston, to browse new products from weapons manufacturers and hunting outfitters, and sign up for hunting excursions around the world.
On the stage at the George Brown Convention Center, the NRA's chief executive, Wayne LaPierre, told the crowd that politicians and the media had repeatedly lied about the organisation.
"NRA members have stared those anti-gun elitists straight in the eye, and we've stared them down," Mr LaPierre told the cheering crowd.
Texas Governor Rick Perry also took to the podium, thanking Texas Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz for "fighting back against the anti-gun lobby in their latest attempt to undercut the [US Constitution's] second amendment", a reference to the failed firearms control bill.
Last month the background checks proposal fell six votes short of the 60 needed to advance in the Senate. It had support from almost all the chamber's Democrats and President Barack Obama, but faced near unanimous Republican opposition.
High-profile gun rights activists including former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal also spoke at the convention.
'Business cloaked as politics'
And the conference will host a demonstration called Stand and Fight, organised by conservative commentator Glenn Beck.
Military veterans who disagree with the NRA are planning a counter-demonstration called Occupy the NRA, and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense were due to rally.
Texas state lawmaker Garnet Coleman, a Democrat whose district is hosting the conference, said he did not plan to attend.
"Clearly, the sales and promotion of firearms is big business," he said. "This is business with politics as the cloak."
Opinion polls have repeatedly shown more than 80% of Americans support a wider system of background checks to keep people with criminal histories from purchasing guns.
The US gun debate was re-energised by a December shooting that left 20 children dead at a primary school Newtown, Connecticut.
In the massacre's wake, some states including New York, Colorado and Connecticut passed gun control legislation, but firearms laws were loosened in South Dakota, Wyoming and Arkansas.
Following the Newtown shootings, the NRA called for armed guards in US schools.