LAFAYETTE, Louisiana — Ted Nugent, the rock musician and guns rights activist, appeared briefly on Saturday alongside the former U.S. Congressman Allen West at the scene of the deadly movie theater shooting in this southern city.
The men laid flowers near the police tape that borders the parking lot at the Grand movie theater here, and then stood for a moment of silence before answering questions from media already on hand for a police press conference.
Both men said they were here to show support and offer prayers for victims, declaring it not the right time to talk about gun policy.
Nugent criticized a reporter who asked whether the Lafayette shooter should have had access to the .45 caliber pistol that law enforcement officers say was used to kill two women and injure nine other people during a rampage on Thursday evening.
“I think it’s inappropriate to even approach that subject. I think it’s all about prayers for the victims and the families,” Nugent said, adding, “I don’t think we should be getting into hardware. I think we should talk about heartware.”
“Talk about what?” the reporter asked.
“Heartware,” Nugent said. “Instead of hardware. It’s a word I made up.”
Nugent and West said they were in the area Saturday to attend a hunting, fishing and boating exposition at Lafayette’s convention hall, which is near the theater. West also said he had been invited to give a talk in the area on politics.
“I had already planned to be here in Lafayette for some events, and now this happened and you got to show your respect,” West said.
Asked whether a different set of laws might have produced a different outcome on Thursday night, West spoke about tightening restrictions on people with a history of mental health problems. ”I don’t think a gun just jumped up by itself and did what it did,” West told reporters. “There was an individual – that person was responsible for his actions.” West, a Florida Republican, served one term in Congress, losing his reelection campaign in 2012.
The Lafayette movie theater shooter, identified by law enforcement as 59 year-old John Russell Houser, appears to have had a record of bizarre brushes with the law. Houser bought his .45 caliber pistol gun legally at a pawn shop in Alabama last year, police say, despite having been turned down for a concealed carry permit in Georgia in 2006 because of a domestic violence complaint and an accusation that he had tried to hire someone to commit arson against a local lawyer.
“I get kind of tired of folks cherry picking when they want to discuss this type of issue,” West told NBC News when asked why he believes it is not the right time to talk about stricter gun laws. He added that killings in Chicago or Baltimore do no spur national debates about gun rights.
“You’re not showing respect in regard to the families,” West continued. “You’re trying to make a political issue.”
Asked if there is ever an appropriate time to discuss the issue, West replied, “It ain’t now.”
Nugent separately told reporters that he feels a bond with this city west of New Orleans.
“I’ve rock and rolled down here before,” he said.