NRA head breaks silence to attack gun control advocates: ‘They hate individual freedom’

Wayne LaPierre spoke at CPAC in the wake of the Florida school shooting, mounting an unrepentant defense of gun rights

The head of the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA) has broken his silence more than a week after the Florida school shooting with a vituperative attack on gun control advocates, accusing them of exploiting the tragedy to push their agenda.

Wayne LaPierre, whose lobby group faces an unprecedented challenge from the activism of students, including survivors of the massacre, sought to paint his opponents as elites and socialists hellbent on undermining Americans constitutional rights.

The elites dont care not one whit about Americas school system and schoolchildren, he told the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the National Harbor in Maryland. If they truly cared, what they would do is they would protect them. For them, its not a safety issue, its a political issue.

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… They hate the NRA, they hate the second amendment, they hate individual freedom.

Addressing a sympathetic audience of conservative grassroots activists, LaPierre continued: They fantasise about more laws stopping what other laws have failed to stop. So many existing laws were ignored. They dont care if their laws work or not. They just want to get more laws to get more control over people. But the NRA the NRA does care.

The massacre of 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida, last week was the second deadliest shooting at an American public school and has spurred extraordinary protests across the country. The debate reached a watershed on Wednesday when students and teachers confronted US Senators in a noisy town hall event televised live by CNN; there were raucous cheers for the idea of sweeping bans on assault weapons.

LaPierres name was initially kept off the agenda at the annual CPAC to protect him from media scrutiny. The NRA often prefers to stay out of the spotlight in the wake of a major shooting.

LaPierre sought to put the warnings in the wider context of a socialist enemy within, who he said oppose our fundamental freedoms enshrined in the bill of rights. He claimed that the Communist Manifesto and Karl Marx were ascendent on university campuses, describing socialism as a political disease.

The NRA chief warned the packed ballroom: You should be anxious and you should be frightened. If these so-called European socialists take over the House and the Senate and, God forbid, they win the White House again our American freedoms could be lost and our country will be changed forever, and the first to go will be the second amendment to the US constitution the right to bear arms.

Pushing the same agenda on school security as Donald Trump, he insisted: The whole idea from some of our opponents that armed security makes us less safe is completely ridiculous. If thats true, armed security makes us less safe, lets just go ahead and remove it from everywhere.

He continued: We must immediately harden our schools. Every day young children are being dropped off at schools that are virtually wide open, soft targets for anyone bent on mass murder. It should not be easier for a madman to shoot up a school than a bank or jewellery store or some Hollywood gala.

Schools should be the hardest target in this country. Evil must be confronted with all necessary force to protect our kids.

He ended his speech, which was met with a standing ovation, by repeating the notorious mantra he had issued after the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012: To stop a bad guy with a gun, it takes a good guy with a gun.

In an earlier speech, the NRAs national spokeswoman singled out the media for criticism. Dana Loesch said: Many in legacy media love mass shootings. You guys love it. Now Im not saying that you love the tragedy. But I am saying that you love the ratings. Crying white mothers are ratings gold to you.

Under intense public pressure, there has been speculation that Trump might use his credibility with Republicans to take on the NRA, one of his strongest backers. But on Thursday he tweeted full support: What many people dont understand, or dont want to understand, is that Wayne, Chris [Cox] and the folks who work so hard at the @NRA are Great People and Great American Patriots. They love our Country and will do the right thing. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!

The president reaffirmed his proposal to address school shootings by giving some teachers guns, tweeting that it would be a great deterrent to killers. He suggested a little bit of a bonus for trained teachers who are armed.

Trump, who held a listening session with students and parents on Wednesday, also said he would advocate for tightening background checks for gun buyers, with an emphasis on mental health, and lifting the age limit to 21 to buy some types of guns policies less likely to please the powerful pro-gun lobby group.

Many attendees at CPAC expressed support for the idea of arming teachers.

Debi Millman, a fundraiser based in Los Angeles, suggested it was more realistic than restricting a country already awash with guns. How many millions of them are there? Youre never going to be able to keep evil out. A better solution for me is have the schools be able to defend themselves. If criminals know that if they attack a school theyll get their heads blown off, thats a good idea.

Randi Green, a personal trainer from Los Angeles, interjected: Except for the fact most teachers are liberals and would baulk at the idea.

Green was sceptical about the students at Parkland who had been speaking out. Theyre definitely being manipulated, she said. Everybody has a voice but these are young kids and I dont think they know better than lawmakers. I thought they were very disrespectful in the way they speak to people. I think the parents are rooting them on.

Scott Pio, 33, wearing a red Make America great again cap, also backed the proposal for teachers to carry and conceal firearms. We can arm everybody else around important people, why cant we arm everybody around our students, especially as they are soft targets? What are people so afraid of? Even city council managers are already protected by guns.

Pio, a software engineer from Fairfax, Virginia, also suggested making schools more secure, with only one point of entry, and increasing the number of security guards on site. But he was opposed to a ban on semi-automatic weapons. There are plenty of people in rural areas who use guns to protect their homes and go hunting. But Im OK with raising the age to 21 for assault rifles.

Chris Davis, 44, a police officer from Pennsylvania, said he was impressed by the students who have spoken out but criticised liberal campaigners demanding tighter gun controls. These same people say President Trump is a tyrant. The reason you have the second amendment is to protect yourself from a tyrant.

Todd McKinley, 40, a retired soldier from Kingsport, Tennessee, added: The left called him Hitler, but then they want to grab all guns just like Hitler did.

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Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/feb/22/nra-wayne-lapierre-gun-control-cpac-speech-2018

White House indicates it could find funds to train and arm 1 million teachers

President expands on idea to arm some teachers in schools and says gun-adept teachers/coaches would solve the problem instantly

The White House indicated on Thursday that the federal government could come up with the money to fund as many as a million teachers being trained and armed with guns across America in a controversial attempt to keep schools safe from more mass shootings.

This followed repeated assertions from Donald Trump during earlier meetings at the White House, as well as in presidential tweets, that his response to the school massacre in Florida last week is to arm teachers and sports coaches.

It would be a great deterrent to killers, he said.

At the White House press briefing on Thursday afternoon, Raj Shah, deputy press secretary, was asked if it was practical to expect teachers to carry concealed handguns to protect their students from shooters.

When you have a horrific situation, what you think and do not think is practical can change, Shah said.

Teachers unions have expressed shock and skepticism that any such plan could be feasible or effective.

But at a meeting at the White House with state and local officials early Thursday afternoon, Trump talked of paying bonuses to some teachers, providing highly adept people, people who understand weaponry, guns … [with] a concealed permit.

He suggested paying bonuses to armed, trained teachers, suggesting that 10, 20, 40% of teachers could be qualified to do so, especially retired military personnel.

I want my schools protected just like I want my banks protected, he said.

The White House was later challenged that 40% of Americas teachers being given a bonus of, for example, $1,000, would mean $1bn being distributed to a million of them.

Do you really think thats too much to pay for school safety? Shah responded. Shah said Trump would soon be talking to members of Congress about legislative and budgetary proposals.

Trump had earlier appeared to speak outagainst the kind of active shooter drills that are becoming the norm in many schools.

Active shooter drills is a very negative thing … Ill be honest with you. If Im a child, Im 10 years old and they say … Were going to have an active shooter drill, I say Whats that? Well, People may come in and shoot you … I think thats a very negative thing to be talking about, to be honest with you. I dont like it. Id much rather have a hardened school,he said.

But Shah explained that it was the frightening name the president disliked, not the drills themselves, and was in favor of calling them a safety drill.

He confirmed that Trump is considering supporting a rise in the age limit for purchasing an assault rifle to 21, but does not support banning assault weapons for US civilians outright. Students who survived the shooting at their high school in Parkland last week quickly began a fierce campaign calling for that measure.

In contrast to the combative tone coming from the administration, the Parkland mayor, Christine Hunschofsky, addressed safety and mental health in her meeting with Trump on Thursday, and then alluded to the assault rifle used by shooter Nikolas Cruz in last Wednesdays massacre, saying: In the end, how did somebody like this person get access to that kind of firearm?

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Angry father of Florida victim asks Trump: ‘How many children have to get shot?’ video

At an emotional session at the White House on Wednesday, the US president held a listening session with survivors of last weeks Florida school shooting and others affected by gun violence, telling them that armed teachers and school coaches could very well end the attack very quickly.

On Thursday, Trump tweeted: 20% of teachers, a lot, would now be able to immediately fire back if a savage sicko came to a school with bad intentions. Highly trained teachers would also serve as a deterrent to the cowards that do this.

Trump said having so-called gun-free zones around schools created a situation for school shooters like going in for the ice cream.

At Wednesdays meeting, Nicole Hockley, whose six-year-old son, Dylan, died at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012, spoke out against arming teachers. I would rather arm them with the knowledge of how to prevent these acts from happening in the first place,she said.

Randi Weingarten, president of theAmerican Federation of Teachers union said in a statement:Anyone who wants guns in schools has no understanding of what goes on inside them or worse, doesnt care.

Barack Obama weighed in on Thursday, tweeting: Young people have helped lead all our great movements. How inspiring to see it again in so many smart, fearless students standing up for their right to be safe.

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Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/feb/22/trump-proposal-teachers-guns-schools