The Day After Teens Poured Their Hearts Out, NRA’s LaPierre Deflects, Rages and Filibusters.

The NRA is a key sponsor of the annual conservative conference, CPAC.

Kyle Mazza/NurPhoto/Zuma

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In his first public comments since a gunman killed 17 people last week at a Florida high school, the leader of the National Rifle Association, Wayne LaPierre, went on the offensive Thursday morning, doubling down on the organization’s most strident pro-gun talking points, while heaping criticism on gun reform advocates.

“They want to sweep right under the carpet the failure of school security, the failure of family, the failure of America’s mental health system and even the unbelievable failure of the FBI,” LaPierre, NRA Executive Vice President and CEO, said during his 35-minute long appearance at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, in National Harbor, Md.

The NRA is a key sponsor of the conference, and until now largely quiet about the Parkland, Fl., high school shooting.

“We share a goal of safe schools, safe neighborhoods, and a safe country,” LaPierre added. “As usual the opportunists waited not one second to exploit the tragedy.”

Rather than gun restrictions, he called for armed security at every school in the country—something President Trump echoed in an early morning series of tweets. “We drop our kids of at schools that are so-called ‘gun free zones,’ that are wide open targets for any crazy madman bent on evil,” he said.

He also called out leading Democrats by name, denouncing Senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and others as “European-style socialists”.

If Democrats take over the House or Senate in this year’s midterm elections, or—”God forbid,” he warned—the White House, “the first to go will be the Second Amendment.”

“Their goal is to eliminate the second amendment and our firearms freedoms, so they can eradicate all individual freedoms,” he said.

The NRA’s appearance comes the morning after a tense town hall-style broadcast on CNN in which student survivors of the Parkland massacre issued withering criticism of NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch, and Florida Republican senator, Marco Rubio. 

“Can you tell me right now that you will not accept a single donation from the NRA?” Cameron Kasky, a 17-year-old who survived the Parkland shooting, asked Rubio amid loud cheers. 

“The answer to the question is that people buy into my agenda, and I do support the second amendment,” Rubio said.

Watch LaPierre’s full speech below:

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is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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