Wayne LaPierre, leader of the National Rifle Association, took the stage Thursday morning at the Conservative Political Action Conference to deliver his first public comments since last week’s deadly shooting at a high school in Florida.
And if you thought he’d be a shrinking violet, you don’t know Wayne LaPierre.
“It’s a bizarre fact that in this country our jewelry stores, all over this country, are more important than our children,” he said. “Our banks, our airports, our NBA games, our NFL games, our office buildings, our movie stars, our politicians, they’re all more protected than our children at school.
“Does that make any sense to anybody? Do we really love our money and our celebrities more than we love our children?” he said to loud applause from gathered conservatives in a ballroom just outside Washington, D.C., at Maryland’s National Harbor.
The NRA has been hit hard in the aftermath of the shooting which left 17 dead. But LaPierre said the media was working overtime to paint the nation’s largest gun organization in a bad light. “Opportunists wasted not one second to exploit tragedy for political gain,” he said.
Democrats, LaPierre declared, “hate the NRA. They hate the Second Amendment. They hate individual freedom.
“For them it’s not a safety issue, it’s a political issue,” he said. “Their goal is to eliminate the Second Amendment and our firearms freedoms, so they can eradicate all individual freedoms.
“Their solution is to make you, all of you, less free,” LaPierre said. “They want to sweep right under the carpet the failure of school security, the failure of family, the failure of America’s mental health system and even the unbelievable failure of the FBI,” he said of those calling for new gun restrictions.
LaPierre said all Americans “share a goal of safe schools, safe neighborhoods and a safe country.” Calling schools “gun-free zones” that are easy targets for crazed shooters, LaPierre echoed what President Trump had suggested at a White House meeting on Wednesday — that schools be better armed and protected.
“Evil walks among us, and God help us if we don’t harden our schools and protect our kids,” LaPierre said.
Trump, meanwhile, has suggested tightening the national background-check system, raising the age for purchasing a semi-automatic weapon to 21, and allowing some teachers and school officials — fully trained — to carry firearms on campuses.