NRA’s Wayne LaPierre instructs CPAC to "be frightened" of “socialist wave” following Parkland

"Saul Alinsky would have been proud of the breakneck speed for gun control laws," LaPierre lamented on Thursday

By Sophia Tesfaye

Published February 22, 2018 1:22PM (EST)

  (AP/Reuters/J. Scott Applewhite/Lucy Nicholson/Photo montage by Salon)
(AP/Reuters/J. Scott Applewhite/Lucy Nicholson/Photo montage by Salon)

National Rifle Association Executive Director and CEO Wayne LaPierre took on a strikingly defiant tone during a speech to the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Thursday, pointing to calls for increased scrutiny of access to guns in America in the wake of the deadliest high school shooting in history as evidence of a “growing socialist state.”

After being introduced by NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch — who took to a national stage for the second time in less than 12 hours to discuss gun violence, only to claim that “crying white mothers are ratings gold” to “many in the legacy media” — the NRA’s chief told the annual right-wing convention that “as usual, the opportunists waited not one second to exploit tragedy for political gain.”

LaPierre, who was paid more than $5 million by the NRA in 2015, delivered a particularly unhinged speech in which he blamed “the privileged . . .elites” for “the shameful politicization” of America’s latest school shooting, which claimed the lives of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida last week.

"The elites care not one whit about America's school system and schoolchildren," LaPierre said on the CPAC stage. "What they want is more restrictions on the law-abiding."

LaPierre appeared to temporarily forget that Republicans control both chambers in Congress and the White House when he blamed Democrats in Congress, several by name, and Barack Obama, for the reaction of the student survivors in Parkland, many of whom have already lobbied lawmakers for increased gun control.  

“European-style socialists seized control of the Democratic Party,” LaPierre told the conservatives outside of Washington, D.C. "Obama promised a fundamental transformation of our country, and you know what? It began with his own national party, a party that is now infested with saboteurs who don’t believe in capitalism, don’t believe in the Constitution, don’t believe in our freedom and don’t believe in America as we know it.”

To LaPierre, a socialist lurked behind the shadows of every non-NRA member. “They hide behind labels like ‘Democrat,’ ‘left-wing’ and ‘progressive’ to make their socialist agenda more palatable,” he claimed.

"Socialism is a movement that loves a smear," he added. "Socialism feeds off of manipulated victims." LaPierre said calls for increased gun control, even those from survivors of Parkland, are part of a conspiracy to “get more laws to get more control over people.”

“Their goal,” he explained, “is to eliminate the Second Amendment and our firearms freedoms so they can eliminate all individual freedoms.”

He added later, "You should be anxious and you should be frightened" about the potential of another Democratic takeover of the House, Senate and White House. "If they seize power . . . our American freedoms could be lost and our country will be changed forever," he said. "The first to go will be the Second Amendment."

“Some people think the NRA should just stick to its Second Amendment agenda and not talk about all of our freedoms,” LaPierre said. “But real freedom requires the protection of all of our rights. And a Second Amendment isn’t worth its own words in a country where all individual freedoms are destroyed.”

LaPierre offered no new ideas to combat the epidemic of mass shootings, or even school shootings, choosing instead to spend his time on the CPAC stage terrifying conservative activists with claims that gun safety advocates “care more about control.”

At CPAC in 2013, a few months after the Newtown shooting, LaPierre said: “To protect our children at school, we recommend a trained professional with a gun.” Pointing to “the political elites,” LaPierre poo-pooed a call for universal background checks after that shooting as “a placebo.”

“The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” he said to end his 2018 CPAC speech. And just a few minutes later, LaPierre got support from the president of the United States. 

Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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Cpac Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Nra Parkland Shooting School Shootings Wayne Lapierre