Trump defends NRA as Wayne LaPierre goes off the rails at CPAC speech

President Donald Trump tweeted his support for the “great people” that lead the National Rifle Association (NRA) on Thursday, as the organization faces backlash in the wake of last week’s last week’s Florida school shooting.

The president specifically named NRA Executive Vice President Wayne Robert LaPierre, Jr. and Institute for Legislative Action principal strategist and lobbyist Chris Cox, describing them as “Great American Patriots.”

Trump’s morning tweet was part of a longer thread of posts in which Trump outlined potential gun control policies, his response to the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. During the attack, gunman and former student Nikolaz Cruz used an assault rifle to kill 17 people.

After refuting “fake news” reports that he would arm teachers, the president suggested several measures that included raising the legal age to buy a long gun to 21, comprehensive background checks that focused on “mental health,” and ending the sale of bump stocks.

The move to make policy changes is in part a result of the catalyzed anger and student movement currently sweeping the country. Florida students have been organizing class walkouts and protests to bring about a national conversation on gun violence, set to culminate in a ‘March for Our Lives’ protest on March 24 in Washington, D.C.

Trump’s defense of the NRA appears to be a response to the increased scrutiny and action that the student movement has threatened to bring to the lawmakers who receive donations from the pro-gun lobby.

The tweet came just minutes before LaPierre addressed the 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), during which he lashed out at campaigners and “elites” saying they “hate individual freedom.”

“They fantasize about more laws stopping what other laws have failed to stop,” the NRA vice president said. “So many existing laws were ignored. They don’t 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.”

“We at the NRA are Americans who continue to mourn, and care, and work every day at contributing real solutions to this very real problem. We share a goal of safe schools, safe neighborhoods, and a safe country. Evil walks among us… To stop a bad guy with a gun, it takes a good guy with a gun.”

In his speech, LaPierre warned conservatives that Democrats wanted to “get rid of the Second Amendment” and that they “should be frightened” of a Democrat-controlled Congress or White House.

“If they seize power… our American freedoms could be lost and our country will be changed forever,” he continued. “The first to go will be the Second Amendment.”

He also hit out at the “breathless national media” that was “eager to smear the NRA in the midst of genuine grief.”

“Socialism is a movement that loves a smear. Socialism feeds off of manipulated victims,” LaPierre said.

“This growing socialist state dreams of manipulating schoolchildren to squeeze them for information about their parents… Do mommy and daddy own a gun? And all of this private information will be entered on to that ultimate list, that cloud of data storage… and then it’s just a short hop to the systematic destruction of our basic freedoms in this country.”

“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 will be lost forever, and the first to go will be the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” he warned.

“Let’s be clear, we are never talking about an armed resistance against the socialist corruption of our government, we are always talking about a resistance armed with the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights.”

It had been uncertain whether LaPierre would even deliver his speech at CPAC following the shooting, but he chose Thursday’s firebrand address to send a clear message to gun control advocates that the NRA is going to be “louder and stronger” than ever.

David Gilmour

David Gilmour

David Gilmour is a reporter who specializes in national politics, internet culture, and technology.