May 3rd, 2013
02:57 PM ET
4 months ago

Gun control in crosshairs at NRA convention

(CNN) – Within minutes of the National Rifle Association's opening forum at their annual meeting Friday, the group's leaders went after gun control proposals and advocates who sought to expand tougher firearm laws following the Newtown elementary school massacre.

"Where we see tragedy, Barack Obama and Michael Bloomberg, they see opportunity," said Chris Cox, the executive director for the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action.

"While we pray for God to comfort those suffering unimaginable pain, they rush to microphones and cameras, gather in war rooms on Capitol Hill and scheme about how to use that suffering to push their political agenda," he continued. "That's who they are and what they believe, but not us."

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, wearing a shirt that said "women hunt," also accused the president of being disingenuous in the wake of tragedy, pointing to the Newtown families who appeared at political events at the invitation of the president.

"The politics of emotion, it's the opposite of leadership. It's the manipulation of the people by the politicians for their own political ends. It's not just self-serving. It's destructive and it must stop," she said.

Tens of thousands of NRA members and supporters are gathered in Houston this weekend, just weeks after the Senate fell short of the 60 votes needed to push forward with a bipartisan proposal to expand the background check system for firearm purchases. A proposed assault weapons ban was also defeated.

The vote was seen as a major victory among anti-gun control advocates and among those in the gun lobby, who argued the measure would not have prevented mass shootings like those seen in Newtown, Connecticut and Aurora, Colorado last year.

Gun control supporters, on the other hand, saw the vote as a catalyst to keep pushing for tougher gun laws.

But Cox argued those who want more firearm regulations on the books are simply using the recent tragedies to push their political agendas.

"We are the moms and dads and sons of daughters of the National Rifle Association, and we want to prevent Newtown, not take advantage of it," Cox said.

Responding to some of the comments made at the NRA convention, Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said he was dismayed by the "celebratory" mood at the gathering.

Some of the remarks are "disgusting, particularly since President Obama was doing what the NRA refuses to do - standing with and fighting for families who have lost loved ones as a result of gun violence. I also think the celebratory atmosphere at the NRA's national conference is disgusting," he said in a statement.

The senator argued the group is "consigning itself to irrelevance" as it "celebrates" its legislative victory.

Around 75,000 people are expected to attend, based on registration and past attendance, with 550 vendors also planning to show up.

Wayne LaPierre, executive Vice President of the NRA, scolded the media for what he described as distorting the gun debate in favor of gun control advocates and arguing that those in Washington and the "elites" are demonizing NRA members.

"We know that every word spoken today and throughout this weekend is going to be scrutinized by our opponents but let me make this perfectly clear, we will never back away from our resolve to defend our rights and the rights of all law-abiding American gun owners."

Texas Gov. Rick Perry also took a swipe at the nation's capital, comparing it to his home state, which he said never loses "faith in the founding fathers' wisdom to include the Second Amendment of the Constitution among the Bill of Rights."

"I wish that sentiment was found in more places, particularly a place whose boundaries are on the Potomac River," he said.

"Our message to them, and our message to everyone in the country, is simple," he continued, adding a plug to the Lone Star State. "There is still a place that loves freedom in America, where people can pursue their dreams free from the kneejerk government regulations that occur. That place is called Texas. That place is called Texas. We want to invite you, if you're not already here, consider coming to the place that loves freedom."

Perry, known for attempting to draw business to his state from other states, also made a pitch to gun manufacturers leaving states that are enacting what he called "draconian" gun laws. PTR Industries of Bristol in Connecticut, for example, said last month it was leaving the state after the state government passed sweeping gun legislation.

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, meanwhile, touted his effort to block gun control legislation in the Senate and challenged Vice President Joe Biden to a debate. Biden leads a task force for the Obama administration on coming up with a set of gun control proposals and was a main liaison between the White House and Congress in the final days before the Senate voted on the measures.

"I would like to invite the Vice President to engage in an hour long conversation and debate – how do we stop crime? And if Vice President Biden really believes the facts are on his side, that this is not simply an exercise in political power by the administration, then I think he would welcome the opportunity to talk about the sources," he said.

Coincidentally, Cruz and Biden will be within two miles of each other Friday night in South Carolina, where they're both scheduled to deliver speeches as separate events.

Also Friday, the widow of Chris Kyle, the former Navy SEAL and expert sniper who was fatally shot at a gun range in February, gave an emotional speech at the event, where she fought back tears to describe her husband who had become known as a hero among members of the military and gun enthusiasts. In his autobiography, he claimed he killed 160 people during five combat tours in Iraq, a record for a U.S. military sniper.

"While publishers and some parts of the public are impressed with numbers of kills, that number did not interest him, a number that would have been much more important to him would have been if someone could have told him the number of lives he saved," Taya Kyle said.

Along with Perry and Cruz, a number of other potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates spoke at the event. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Rep. Paul Ryan, former GOP vice presidential nominee, addressed the crowd via video.

Former Sen. Rick Santorum, who battled eventual GOP nominee Mitt Romney deep into the 2012 primary season, warned in a broader argument that Obama was attacking Americans' freedoms on a larger scale. His remarks echoed refrains from many of his campaign speeches.

He also praised NRA supporters for weathering the gun control debate, calling them "freedom warriors."

"You stood tall–as unpopular as it seemed–but you stood for the truth. You didn't let all the smoke and the mirrors of trying to hide behind a horrible tragedy, to turn you from the truth," he said, though he received a more tepid response from the audience than some of the other speakers.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal also targeted Obama in a highly-political speech, attacking the president not only over gun control, but also over the deficit, health care and taxes.

"I believe he wants to be a good president, but he does have a lack of trust. He doesn't trust Americans, like you and I trust Americans. He will not succeed until that changes," he said.

A number of gun control advocates under fire at the NRA are set to go to Houston, as well. Erica Lafferty, daughter of slain Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hochsprung, wants to reach out to NRA members and share her viewpoint. Mayors Against Illegal Guns, one of several gun control groups using this week's Congressional recess to bring the gun control message to the states, said Friday they would air an ad in the Houston market during the convention featuring a gun owner and NRA member whose sister was shot and killed by her husband, who should have been prohibited from buying guns but was able to purchase a firearm online without a background check.

Media from around the world are covering the NRA event, including journalists from Australia, Denmark and India, according to Alexa Fritts, an NRA representative.

At last year's meeting in St. Louis, 81% of attendees were male, and 62% described themselves as hunters, according to an informal survey taken at the convention. Nearly eight in 10 said they participate in NRA activities six or more times a year, and two-thirds said they spend more than $500 a year on shooting/hunting equipment.

Just over half–53%–traveled more than 200 miles to attend the convention and see the exhibits.

– CNN's Athena Jones, Todd Sperry, Adam Levy and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.

READ MORE: NRA gears up for big weekend


Filed under: Gun control • Gun rights • NRA • Rick Perry • Ted Cruz • Texas • Wayne LaPierre
soundoff (290 Responses)
  1. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    Just look at the favorability ratings for senators who for background checks and the favorability for those who voted against it.

    In Favor:
    Toomey = + 7%
    Landrieu = +6%

    Opposed:
    Heller = – 2%
    Begich = -6%
    Burr = -14%
    Ayotte = -15%
    Portman = -18%
    Flake = -21%

    Men lie, Woman lie, Numbers don't lie!!!

    May 3, 2013 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  2. Sniffit

    ""We are the moms and dads and sons of daughters of the National Rifle Association, and we want to prevent Newtown, not take advantage of it,""

    Right...and that's why it's the centerpiece of your entire speech that's chock full of vitriol, misrepresentations and pretending to have the moral high ground over people who saw a problem and tried to act to fix it. Yeah, there's no "taking advantage of it" there...no sirreee. Yawn.

    May 3, 2013 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  3. Patriot

    Vote out all who oppose our Bill of Rights or forever give up your freedom.

    May 3, 2013 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  4. Sniffit

    "Numbers don't lie!!!'

    Seconded! haha

    May 3, 2013 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  5. Getoverit

    “Where we see tragedy, Barack Obama and Michael Bloomberg, they see opportunity,”

    No truer words have ever been spoken.

    May 3, 2013 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  6. msbpodcast

    I support the 2nd amendment, for muskets, but not for sub-machine guns.

    May 3, 2013 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  7. PaulCat

    These NRA people are very sick.
    But hey, it's all about the dollar bill.

    So many people are stupid enough to fall for it.

    Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

    May 3, 2013 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  8. Tony Z

    It has been said that is better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. Way to go NRA- You can't be serious.

    May 3, 2013 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  9. Damon

    Sniffit, care to tell me exactly how a universal background check would have stopped Sandy Hook? Or for that matter Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, or any other mass shooting?

    Easy answer ... they would not. So don't pretend to take the moral high ground here by claiming that the NRA is using misrepresentations when the democratic, our president, and presumably you are more than willing to use the backdrop of these shootings to pass additional gun control that would have had absolutely no impact on stopping these tragedies. If you really want to stop shootings such as these, then join with the NRA to push for mental health to made part of the NCIC background check. That would have actually stopped some of these shootings, and is legislation that a responsible gun owner could get behind.

    May 3, 2013 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  10. Liberal

    Why is my party anti-Bill of Rights / anti-American in this issue?

    May 3, 2013 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  11. scarf

    ""We are the moms and dads and sons of daughters of the National Rifle Association, and we want to prevent Newtown, not take advantage of it,""
    ======================================================================================

    And yet, they adamantly oppose any proposal that might prevent such tragedies, with the exception of putting MORE guns in schools. There was an armed guard at Columbine. Considering how Columbine worked out, any self-respecting advocate of guns in schools won't claim this as validation of their proposal.

    May 3, 2013 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  12. The Real Tom Paine

    Getoverit

    “Where we see tragedy, Barack Obama and Michael Bloomberg, they see opportunity,”

    No truer words have ever been spoken.
    **********************
    The only tragedy they saw is that they would run out of AR-15s in a short while. If its an opportunity to make this country a safer place, where no one has to be told their 1st grader had been executed by a mentally ill man who had easy access to way too much weaponry, then yes, its an opportunity to stop that. For the NRA, it was yet another chance to raise more money off of paranoid throwbacks, and use it to sponsor NASCAR events where people commit suicide. Get over yourself and your perversion of my Constitution.

    May 3, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  13. Liberal

    There was an assult weapons ban for 5 years when Columbine happened. The ban did NOTHING to help stop it.

    May 3, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  14. Damon

    @Scarf: If you can make a coherent argument that a universal background check could have stopped the Sandy Hook massacre, please make it. As to Columbine, the armed guard at that school EXCHANGED GUNFIRE with the two cowards who shot that school up. I am pretty sure while the time they spent having to duck behind cover and return that guard's gunfire allowed other innocents to live who very well could have been killed if that guard had not been there. Your logic .... it is lacking something. I know what it is lacking ... LOGIC!

    May 3, 2013 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  15. Sniffit

    75,000 huh? Ooooh...that must mean that the whole country...nay, the whole world...agrees with you, right GOPers/Teatrolls?

    Meanwhile, polls show that 300M or so Americans are rolling their eyes at these 75,000 raving lunatic.

    But don't let that get in your way, you whacky whacky nutjobs you...please proceed.

    May 3, 2013 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  16. Sniffit

    "Sniffit, care to tell me exactly how a universal background check would have stopped Sandy Hook? "

    No, I don't, because that's not the issue. Now, please, run along and go play with your straw man elsewhere...I don't have time for people who still play with dolls.

    May 3, 2013 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  17. scarf

    @Damon
    Yes,the guard at Columbine exchanged gunfire with (one) of the cowards, who then ran into the building to kill more students, while the guard waited for backup. It's not logic. It's facts.

    May 3, 2013 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  18. JustAO

    I have yet to see a victim of gun violence say that they are being exploited when they want gun violence to end and gun control to be more restrictive. I'm sure their loved ones want to be forgotten because gun advocates want 2nd amendment rights no matter how ridiculous and outdated those freedom to shoot other people rights are.

    May 3, 2013 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  19. Damon

    @Sniffit: Ah, so the democrats can use the backdrop of Sandy Hook and all of those murdered kids to promote gun control that would have done absolutely nothing to stop that tragedy ... and that is ok with you.

    Pointing out that the NRA is correct in their assertion that Sandy Hook would not have been stopped by universal background checks ... well according to you that is misleading, and not ok with you.

    And when challenged to answer how exactly the NRA is misleading people, while also showing how the democrats and their gun control agenda are completely correct to use murdered kids as a prop ... well all you can do is get snarky. Let me guess, liberal arts degree? :)

    May 3, 2013 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  20. duzt

    90% of numbers don't lie...

    May 3, 2013 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  21. Marie MD

    Is radio host bob davis of MN attending the convention of guns nuts? Just asking because while these fools pray for the victims of Newtown davis says that he doesn't care where it happened because he doesn't want to e forced to lose his liberty. He also saidod the victims that he was sick and tired of seeing them trotted out, given rides on Air Force One and hauled in the senate. If he could he would stand in front d them al and tell them to go to he11!
    I am NOT making this up folks. This is the right and their real thoughts of cities of violent crime. Fat boy limberger. Allen them shields.

    May 3, 2013 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  22. scarf

    Liberal

    There was an assult weapons ban for 5 years when Columbine happened. The ban did NOTHING to help stop it.
    =======================================================================================
    That's because, unlike the gun lobby's fears, no assault weapons were confiscated. So all the assault weapons already out there were enough to continue the carnage.

    May 3, 2013 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  23. jinx9to88

    Aw yes another star cast of speakers just like the GOP conventions a couple months ago. Wow!!! 2014 will have these crazies out working for these lobbyist cause the wount be the "american people" Senators.

    May 3, 2013 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  24. Sniffit

    "Pointing out that the NRA is correct in their assertion that Sandy Hook would not have been stopped by universal background checks ... well according to you that is misleading, and not ok with you."

    It's not the issue. What happened in Newtown sparked the will to try to do something more, but it wasn't necessarily just focused on preventing something like Sandy Hook from happening. Furthermore, thorough universal background checks that include fitness to carry evaluations and require people to disclose the status of those who share their home certainly could have prevented the Newtown tragedy if the result was that his mother was not allowed to buy numerous firearms and keep them in the home with her looped out whackadoodle son.

    As for accusing me of being snarky, you're the one who tried to initiate debate with nothing more than a snarky question using a straw man argument. Moreover, your insistence on pretending that people advocating more thorough background checks and a system without loopholes like the gun show loophole don't also want mental health issues to be considered as PART of the solution...that's just dishonest. We're not the ones arguing in absolutes and we're willing to incorporate whatever reasonable ideas that will help. Rather, the ones talking in absolutes are the gun nuts, who chop this debate into black and white and use paranoid delusional slippery slope arguments about background checks leading to nationwide confiscation...pulling complete 180's from positions the NRA supported 10 years ago.

    May 3, 2013 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  25. The Real Tom Paine

    -Damon

    @Sniffit: Ah, so the democrats can use the backdrop of Sandy Hook and all of those murdered kids to promote gun control that would have done absolutely nothing to stop that tragedy ... and that is ok with you.

    Pointing out that the NRA is correct in their assertion that Sandy Hook would not have been stopped by universal background checks ... well according to you that is misleading, and not ok with you.

    And when challenged to answer how exactly the NRA is misleading people, while also showing how the democrats and their gun control agenda are completely correct to use murdered kids as a prop ... well all you can do is get snarky. Let me guess, liberal arts degree?
    *****************
    And you have what? A GED? Mail-order, or online?

    May 3, 2013 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
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