Just over a week after 17 people were killed at a Parkland, Florida, high school, National Rifle Association executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre gave a fiery, defiant speech at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, on Thursday. LaPierre defended 2nd Amendment rights and warned of a “socialist agenda” that wanted to strip away firearms from law-abiding citizens.
“As usual, the opportunists wasted not one second to exploit tragedy for political gain,” LaPierre said. “Saul Alinsky would have been proud of the breakneck speed for gun control laws and the breathless national media eager to smear the NRA,” he added, referring to the 20th-century community organizer.
LaPierre, who was not listed on CPAC’s official schedule, accused Democrats of making gun control a political issue in order to achieve their ultimate goal to “eradicate all individual freedoms.”
“What they want are more restrictions on the law abiding — think about that,” LaPierre said. “Their solution is to make you all of you less free. They want to sweep right under the carpet the failure of school security, the failure of the family, the failure of America’s school systems and even the unbelievable failure of the FBI.”
LaPierre said in the past he’d worked with Democrats who wanted to work to reduce gun violence, but that leaders now only cared about exploiting tragedy for political gain, calling them a “tidal wave of new European socialist” in charge of the party, and namechecking Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.; Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio; New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo; Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J.; Sen. Christopher Murphy, D-Conn.; and Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., to boos in the crowd.
“I hear a lot of quiet in this room, and I sense your anxiety,” LaPierre said, turning to the political consequences of the debate. “And you should be anxious, and you should be frightened. If they seize power, if these so-called ‘European socialists’ take over the House and the Senate, and God forbid they get the White House again, our Americans freedoms could be lost and our country will be changed forever.”
LaPierre also accused Democrats like Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., of not working with them enough to address mental health and to put such checks into the database system to prevent dangerous people from getting access to guns.
LaPierre also echoed a longtime call of the NRA — which President Trump also endorsed during a listening session with families of victims and survivors of gun violence on Wednesday — to more heavily arm school personnel and to provide better security and roll back gun-free school zones.
“We must immediately harden our schools. Every day young children are being dropped off at schools that are virtually wide open, soft targets for anyone bent on mass murder,” LaPierre argued. “It should not be easier for a madman to shoot up a school than a bank or a jewelry store or some Hollywood gala. Schools must be the most hardened target in this country, and evil must be confronted immediately with all necessary force to protect our kids.”
LaPierre ended his speech, to a standing ovation, by reprising comments he made five years ago after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.: “To stop a bad guy with a, gun it takes a good guy with a gun.”
Ahead of the NRA leader’s speech, Trump tweeted his support for LaPierre and others in the organization, calling them “Great People and Great American Patriots” who will “do the right thing.”