As a heated debate over gun rights continues to surge across the nation, a leader of the National Rifle Association made an unscheduled speech Thursday to argue that the level of armed security offered to celebrities should extend to schools.
The NRA's executive vice president Wayne LaPierre opened his address at the Conservative Political Action Conference by blaming “school security, the failure of family, the failure of America’s mental health system, and even the unbelievable failure of the FBI” for the Florida school shooting last week that left 17 people dead.
“It's a bizarre fact that in this country our jewelry stores, all over this country, are more important than our children,” LaPierre argued. “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?” he asked the crowd of grassroots conservatives. “Do we really love our money and our celebrities more than we love our children?”
A leader of the nation’s largest pro-Second Amendment group, LaPierre was expected to attend the three-day conference at Maryland’s National Harbor, but he was left off the speaking schedule in light of the Parkland shooting as organizers feared his speech would attract protesters.
But after NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch was introduced as a keynote speaker, attendants realized LaPierre would likely also address the crowd.
“We were all horrified by another terrible tragedy at an American school,” LaPierre said. “Each and every member of the National Rifle Association mourns the loss of the innocent.”
His speech then turned from an address focused on victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting to a diatribe against Democrats.
“For them it's not a safety issue, it's a political issue,” the NRA vice president said of his opposers. “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,” he added.
His message comes as Parkland shooting survivors, as well as the victims’ parents, gathered both in Tallahassee and in Washington D.C. to rally for stricter gun control laws.
At CNN’s Town Hall event, grieving parents and teenage survivors pitched questions and criticism to Loesch, as well as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, calling for assault weapons like the AR-15 used in many mass shootings to be outlawed or more heavily restricted.
President Donald Trump also held a listening session with a number of students who survived the shooting and parents of the deceased as they gathered at the White House on Wednesday.
In the session, Trump pitched the idea of arming teachers in schools, an idea that was panned by most of the guests.
He also pledged to push for more comprehensive background checks on those attempting to purchase firearms, consider raising the age to buy guns to 21 and ban bump stocks, the devices that turned the Las Vegas gunman's semi-automatic rifle into a war-style machine gun.
But Trump also expressed his support for the NRA, who endorsed him as the Republican nomination during the 2016 election.0comments
“What many people don’t understand, or don’t want to understand, is that… the folks who work so hard at the @NRA are Great People and Great American Patriots,” Trump tweeted Thursday morning ahead of LaPierre's speech.
“They love our Country and will do the right thing. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” he wrote.