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NRA's Wayne LaPierre Calls For Firearms In Schools At CPAC


The head of the National Rifle Association, Wayne LaPierre, struck a defiant tone today. He said stricter gun laws will do nothing to protect students and others from gun violence, and he said gun control advocates are more concerned about limiting the Second Amendment than they are about school safety. Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference near Washington, D.C., this morning, these were his first public remarks since the shooting deaths at a high school in Florida last week. NPR's Don Gonyea was there.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: The setting was the annual gathering of conservative activists known as CPAC. And even though it was not formally labeled as such, this became Second Amendment day. The speeches began with the introduction of talk show host and National Rifle Association spokesperson Dana Loesch.


DANA LOESCH: Now, I'm going to say something that some people are going to say is controversial.

GONYEA: With that, she motioned to the risers and rows of press tables in the back. Then...


LOESCH: Many in legacy media love mass shootings. You guys love it.


GONYEA: She added quickly that the media don't love the actual tragedy of it.


LOESCH: But I am saying that you love the ratings. Crying white mothers are ratings gold.

GONYEA: And with that, she set the tone for what would follow. Up next - NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre. It wasn't clear if he'd actually show up at this conference given the events in Parkland, Fla. But he appeared on stage to cheers and opened by referencing the killings of a week ago. He said the NRA mourns the loss of the innocent.


WAYNE LAPIERRE: And continues to keep their families and that community in our prayers.

GONYEA: But from that point forward, LaPierre was on the attack.


LAPIERRE: As usual, the opportunist wasted not one second to exploit tragedy for political gain.

GONYEA: His targets - the media and those who would imply that the NRA is somehow complicit in such violence. He said that elites don't care one whit about America's schoolchildren.


LAPIERRE: They care more about control and more of it. Their goal is to eliminate the Second Amendment and our firearms' freedoms so they can eradicate all individual freedoms.

GONYEA: LaPierre said that protecting schools means hardening them, making them difficult targets to strike. That means training and arming certain school personnel not unlike, he said, what you have in any big public event or any jewelry store. LaPierre also broadened his message beyond guns. He described the specter of a dangerous socialism spreading throughout the country. It was evocative of a speech you might've heard at the height of the Cold War. Again, he spoke of the elites.


LAPIERRE: If they seize power, if the so-called European socialists take over the House and the Senate and, God forbid, they get the White House again, our American freedoms could be lost and our country will be changed forever.

GONYEA: At the end, LaPierre brought it back around to schools. He looked back to the tragedy five years ago in Newtown where 20 children and six adults were killed, reminding the audience of something he said back then and saying he wished more people would've listened to him.


LAPIERRE: To stop a bad guy with a gun, it takes a good guy with a gun.


GONYEA: LaPierre made no specific reference to the students from Florida who've spoken up and marched since the shooting last week, but he did say the NRA is committed to do even more than it has in the past to fight for its cause. Don Gonyea, NPR News, Oxon Hill, Md. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.
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