May 3rd, 2013
02:57 PM ET
4 years 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. scarf


    California mulls letting noncitizens serve on juriesBy Ruben Navarrette, CNN Contributor
    updated 10:12 AM EDT, Thu May 2, 2013
    I never thought I'd say this but the right is actually looking better than the alternative.
    I live in CA, and I think this is a bad idea, too. But, the people most opposed to it cite it as an example of how (stoopid, ignerant, scroowed up, etc,; choose one) the people who support it are. Which begs the question, if the citizens who are in favor of the proposal are that bad, why wouldn't you rather have a jury made up of non-citizens?

    May 3, 2013 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  2. don in albuquerque

    Ask yourself, if you could have done one thing that would have: or might have stopped the killing at Sandy Hook would you have done it? Naaaaaaaaw, stupid question, forget it.

    May 3, 2013 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    Just an fyi. You can buy a gun without a background check online, however it is then sent to your local registered firearms dealer where you have to do a background check to leave with it. The media claims ignorance in spreading the half truths while doing it on purpose. Another one is Background checks at gun shows. Despite what's being reported the vast majority of gun sales at gun shows are from dealers who are required to do background checks. The other is the individual sales who still rent a booth and mostly sell rare expensive or antique firearms. The truth is the guy supplying the criminals is already passing a background check and breaking a current law rarely enforced by selling it to them. Why all the name calling are you guys incapable of having a educated conversation.

    May 3, 2013 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  4. libertarian

    You idiots that say the second amendment only applies to muskets...ok, I'll play along. If that's the case then the First Amendment (which, BTW, would cease to exist without the Second) only applies to print media. Radio, television, and the internet are not protected under your ridiculously flawed logic since those formats didn't exist when the Bill of Rights was written.

    May 3, 2013 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  5. MaryM

    California law shifts $24 million to gun-confiscation program
    An article here on CNN May 1st. You don't think the government wants to confiscate guns? THINK AGAIN.
    The 24 million in California is for gun BUY BACKS. You really need to know the facts before you comment

    May 3, 2013 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  6. Larry in Houston

    truth be known : Cruz was elected, because there was nobody else to vote for – in other words : he was the least favorite – sort of like the best of 2 evils – the other guy was one of Perry's puppets – So, even when some of the repubs don't like Perry, because a guy like David Dewhurst was running against Cruz – and Dewhurst was worthless, ( even some repubs say that) So they ended up voting Cruz IN – ( I think they eventually will be sorry they voted for Cruz)

    May 3, 2013 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  7. Junior

    I am deeply sorry for Ms. Laffertys loss, but I feel she is blaming the wrong side for using her mother as a number. If you know that changing the laws would not have stopped the Newtown tragedy and you still give speeches with family members standing around you to promote gun control that would not have stopped Newtown you are using them for promoting your own agenda then right there they all are a number and pawns in a personal agenda.
    I really do not understand how some people are not focusing on the people that do these horrible things. In our society we no longer hold anyone accountable for their actions. We are not supposed to rush to judge all Muslims because some radical Muslims are trying to kill Americans, but when somebody shoots people millions of gun owners are lumped in with the idiots that commit these crimes.
    Focus on punishing the criminals not the law abiding people.

    May 3, 2013 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  8. MaryM

    California law shifts $24 million to gun-confiscation program
    An article here on CNN May 1st. You don't think the government wants to confiscate guns? THINK AGAIN.
    The 24 million in California is for gun BUY BACKS. And to confiscate firearms from those prohibited by law from owning them

    May 3, 2013 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  9. Jaime

    Anonymous: I don't quite understand your point. You seem to be arguing in favor of universal background checks because you admit that the vast majority of criminals obtain their guns on the secondary market, which is not subject to background checks.

    By the way, I would love to know what laws original purchaser is breaking when they sell the gun to the criminal and how you go about enforcing the law given that there is no paper trail (because the NRA and gun owners are against a national registry) and the original purchaser can just claim that it was an arm's length transaction.

    May 3, 2013 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  10. Larry L

    @Data Driven

    I love Rick Perry. Texas is the only place on earth with freedom! Bwa!
    Somalia has similar "freedoms" to Texas. You can own any gun you want in Somalia. They also don't have any pesky regulations for safety, health or environmental protection – it's all about the free market. You can have all of the support from the leaders you can buy – just like Texas. The first real difference will emerge when the educational systems are compared – because with Rick Perry's influence Somalia will soon surpass Texas in the rankings.

    May 3, 2013 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  11. Marie MD

    We think la pierre is an imbecile? Wait till you hear what good ole southern boy jim porter, the incoming president of the nra, says about the Civil War.
    It's was aggression by the North (I guess Lincoln is turning in his grave). His voce for people arming themselves is not about protecting your family anymore but so that we can all have guns to rise against our government.
    Why aren't these people in jail for being traitors? Start with the mutant from AK, go through texas and any other red state in between and put them in jail where they all belong. Don't forget the flake from MN who actually called for a rising against the same government she is part of because she is too dumb to realize she IS part of the problem.

    May 3, 2013 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  12. Marie MD

    @Freedom isn't free – People in this country have the right to bear arms. You liberal pinko's need to do some read the 2nd amendment,
    Education IS free but you and your kind don't seem to have taken advantage of our public education system.
    I rather be a liberal pinko (thank you) than a backwoods brainless redneck.

    May 3, 2013 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  13. wwf

    Glad to know that the 1st amendment applies to 4/5 year old children. Making guns for children. Some people have no shame as long as there is a buck to be made. Anyone who supports putting guns in the hands of children is a complete idiot. I knew there were a lot of stupid people out their but now realize just how many and just how stupid. Oh, I am not a lefty. I own guns and will purchase a couple more. Funny thing though. I have no fear of a background check. I for one do not think that the sky is falling like the NRA says it is.

    May 3, 2013 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  14. Jim Rush

    Now we need to Repeal the draconian New York State "Safe Act". If the Communists in New York State can do it, what's to stop other States from adopting the same thing? If by the end 2013 this Fascist law is not repealed, I don't care if I've even got a job to go to or a place to live, I will be leaving New York State for Texas. Any Jailer jobs left in Texas?

    May 3, 2013 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  15. don in albuquerque

    Ya know...........This whole question on guns boils down to one thing. Psychologist have said for decades that guns are phallic symbols (for many of the posters here that means your PeePee). And they just do not want the gubmint telling them what they can stroke late at night when their paranoia takes control.

    May 3, 2013 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  16. MTATL67

    The NRA may have won the battle but they lost the war. This cost of this battle a few senate seat in the next couple elections. Celebrate today NRA cause tomorrow you'll weep

    May 3, 2013 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  17. Sniffit

    "The 24 million in California is for gun BUY BACKS. And to confiscate firearms from those prohibited by law from owning them"

    To them a buyback program is the same thing as confiscation. Their tinfoil hats interfere with the cognitive processes involved in proper perception of nuances. Heck, the nutjobs in AZ just cooked up legislation this week that prohibits guns bought back in a buyback program from being destroyed...which is really the whole point of the buybacks in the first place...but hey, this just highlights that what they are really most concerned about is making sure as many guns as possible are in circulation and with as little oversight or control or monitoring of whose hands they fall into as possible...because that allows for more sales and money to be made. Gun nuts couldn't give two steamy craps about safety issues.

    May 3, 2013 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  18. Chris

    The NRA keeps doubling down on their alarmist, paranoid vomit. They are turning the tide of public opinion against them and self-destructing in a way in which I've never seen. I can't wait to see their candidates washed away in 2014.

    May 3, 2013 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  19. AKR

    Let these nutcases kill each other off with their guns and stay away from the rest of us! It's already happening with at least 1 child a day lost to gun violence.

    May 3, 2013 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  20. Alan

    The NRA has adopted the mis-information, mis-direction, fillibuster technique of Boehner's Bum's in the House. Stating that they see an opportunity and the NRA see's tragedy when the opportunity to sell a child an ozy at a gun show is putting the shoe on the other elbow. Since these right wing zealots of lying to the American public and convincing those who don't think that putting a background check into force is 'Big Government' striking at the 2nd amendment...maybe if we have the captains of other industries like Buffett, Imelt at GE, Ballard at Microsoft, Steve Jobs widow, Google's founder..all come out with full page or online ads supporting universal background checks with the specific language that no National Registry will be created which is in the bill and the NRA and paid for politicians like Ayotte lie about...maybe if others than Obama, and Biden speak out...those soon to be former Senators who voted against the Bill and Boehner and his mis directed Bums in the House who won't even come up with or allow a vote on their version of the bill...WILL GET THE MESSAGE FROM AMERICA – "You all will soon be OUT OF OFFICE!" because you won't listen to us.

    May 3, 2013 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  21. George

    It should be as hard to get a gun as it is for a chronic pain patient to get their meds, but it isn't, you can go just about anywhere and get as many guns as you want. A patient needing pain meds have to go to the doctor EVERY month have, have EVERY pill counted, some even have to go to a shrink. But if I want guns just go to Walmart.

    May 3, 2013 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  22. Steve

    yes, we will have to drag the south (including texas) kicking and screaming into the 21st century, just like with slavery and the civil rights movement. what a backwards people.

    May 3, 2013 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  23. yo!

    Stop it!

    May 3, 2013 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  24. Zwei Stein

    At least 75,000 NRA enthusiasts in Houston. PLUS vendors. The vendors are licking their chops. They know that besides seks, fear sells!

    May 3, 2013 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  25. Demigod Vadik, CA

    The Wild West in the 1800's and Somalia have freedom from government and gun control...

    ...and it is paradise...

    ...anyone upsets you, you can just shoot them...

    ...anyone looks at you the wrong way, and you can just shoot them...

    ...want to create a meth lab in your house, just do it, no government knocking at your door telling you what you can and cant do...

    ...ahhhh the freedom...

    May 3, 2013 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
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