Guns in the hands of urban city-dwellers would have put the minds of Boston residents at ease during the city-wide lockdown for the marathon bombing suspect manhunt, National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre argued Saturday.
“How many Bostonians wished they had a gun two weeks ago?” LaPierre asked at his organization’s annual convention in Houston, Texas. His comments marked the first time the pro-gun lobbying group has linked the Boston Marathon bombings to the gun debate.
LaPierre praised law enforcement officials in the manhunt (“good guys with guns stopped terrorists with guns”) before he went on to accuse President Obama and lawmakers in Washington of exploiting other tragedies—namely the gun violence seen in both Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo—for political gain.
“They use tragedy to try to blame us, to shame us into compromising our freedom for their political agenda,” he said.
The perceived exploitation, however, has left little in the way of political action, as LaPierre gleefully reminded event attendees while congratulating the “courageous” lawmakers who stonewalled gun reform in Congress. Two weeks ago, bipartisan legislation that would have expanded background checks on gun sales was torpedoed in the Senate in a 54-46 tally just shy of the 60 votes needed to pass. Two NRA A-rated senators sponsored the bill.
“That flawed failure lost on its merit and got the defeat it deserved,” LaPierre said.
The failed reforms mounted as a massive loss for President Obama’s gun safety agenda, a tidbit LaPierre relished in while throwing red meat to the pro-gun crowd Saturday. He claimed the president “mocked” and “deceived” the American public as the administration pushed for gun control.
Obama had equally strong words specifically targeting the NRA for derailing hope of background checks being passed through Congress. “This was a pretty shameful day for Washington,” he said angrily following the final Senate vote on the gun amendment two weeks ago. Obama attacked the NRA, declaring that the organization “willfully lied” about the consequences of tighter laws on background checks.
As Obama has repeatedly noted, polls show that 90% of Americans support expanded background checks on gun sales. But according to LaPierre, Americans should not pay heed to those pesky facts. The NRA CEO stirred conspiracy theories that political and media types can “conjure up all the polls you can.”
“As they say in Texas, the president’s 90% is all hat, and no cattle,” LaPierre said of Obama’s frequently-used factoid.
Snapshots of America’s gun culture were on full display for the three-day annual convention in Houston. The NRA anticipated welcoming over 70,000 freedom-loving gun owners to attend the event that featured a roster of has-been characters from the Republican Party’s fringe. LaPierre boasted of record-breaking NRA membership at almost 5 million representing the “middle of the river of America’s mainstream.” The pro-gun pep rally brought on cheers as LaPierre bashed gun control activists from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (dubbed the “national nanny”) to some in the mainstream media.
“To the political and media elites who scorn us, we say let them be damned!”