Wayne LaPierre, the executive director of the National Rifle Association, attacked President Obama for turning “absolutism” into a “dirty word” in what America’s monolithic gun lobby billed as a direct response to the presidential inaugural address Tuesday.
LaPierre, speaking before a friendly crowd at a hunting conference in Reno, used a single line from President Obama’s speech as the spine of his counter.
“I’d like to talk to you about one line at the end of President Obama’s speech where he said, quote ‘We cannot mistake absolutism for principles’” LaPierre began the 12-minute speech peppered with predictable scare tactics, petulant jabs and unfounded broadsides.
“We’re told that to stop insane killers, we must accept less freedom, less than the criminal class and the political elites, less than they keep for themselves,” LaPierre said, parroting the same message advanced in a controversial NRA ad that accused President Obama of hypocrisy for having Secret Service protection for his young daughters.
Later in the speech, LaPierre echoed the same point. “We believe we deserve and have every right to the same freedom that our government leaders keep for themselves and the same capabilities and the same technologies that criminals use to prey upon us and our families,” he said. “That means we believe in our right to defend ourselves and our families with semiautomatic firearms technologies.”
LaPierre’s remarks carefully challenged several gun safety measures discussed by the president last week—from a possible ban on high capacity magazines, to the establishment of a federal gun registry database.
“He wants to put every firearms transaction right under the thumb of the federal government and he wants to keep all of those names in a massive federal registry,” LaPierre said. “There are only two reasons for a federal list on gun owners: to either tax them or take them.”
LaPierre attacked the president for “slurring” the NRA and demonizing “Republicans in Congress” while assuming a “moral high ground”; he called the president a “self-appointed arbiter of what freedom really means.”
The emboldened gun lobbyist assured the audience the president “doesn’t understand you” and told them they don’t need to be treated like children who cling to “guns and religion”—a reference to comments made by presidential candidate Barack Obama.
“Mr. President, just because you wish words meant something other than what they mean, you don’t have the right to define them any way you want,” LaPierre said in one of several direct challenges to President Obama. “Because when words can mean anything, they mean nothing. When absolutes are abandoned for principles, the U.S. Constitution becomes a blank slate for anyone’s graffiti.”
Of course, no one in the audience challenged LaPierre’s statements as David Gregory did during the chairman’s Dec. 23 “Meet the Press” appearance, when Gregory asked if limiting high-capacity magazines truly limited liberty. LaPierre also glossed over the widespread derision that met his Dec. 21 proposal in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., shooting that armed guards be placed at every school in the United States. There was also no mention of polling that shows an increasing number of Americans favor reasonable gun safety measures. He did not mention Tuesday’s shooting at Lone Star College in Texas—or any of the lives lost to gun violence since the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
“Mr. President you might think calling us ‘absolutist’ is a clever way of name calling without using names,” LaPierre concluded. “But if that is absolutist, then we are as absolutist as our founding fathers and the framers of our Constitution and we are proud of it.”