Wayne LaPierre CPAC Speech: No Backing Down on Background Checks

Speaking before a friendly audience at CPAC today, Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association defiantly urged his audience to "stand and fight" against any further restrictions on gun ownership even enhanced background checks, something his colleague NRA President David Keene has recently supported. LaPierre himself has supported these checks in the past. Taking his cue from those who labeled his own post-Sandy Hook calls for armed guards and staff members in schools as "crazy," Mr. LaPierre used his 23 minutes at the podium to portray those calling for increased gun restrictions, as well as various suggestions for self-protection offered by government officials, as "crazy" and "bizarre," all the while reiterating his previous assertions that only a good person with a gun can stop a bad person with a gun. He played fast and loose with some facts, but his friendly CPAC audience did not seem to mind.


LaPierre voiced his objection to universal background checks, stating that it would inevitably lead to a national gun registry, something many gun-owners object to. He called background checks "placebos," saying there’s no way they can truly be universal and that they "will never make our streets safer." This statement is particularly noteworthy because it is a direct reversal of his position from 1999, when he called universal background checks "reasonable" and advocated them for all Americans with "no loopholes anywhere, for anyone." At CPAC, he said that checks were doomed to failure because criminals would never participate in them and that the mentally ill are prevented from having to do so because of privacy laws, leaving lawful gun-owners as the sole participants in the registry. The only two outcomes of such a list, according to LaPierre, would be to tax guns or take them. LaPierre further suggested that a gun registry would be a privacy risk to those who are on it. By his reckoning, the list of names would be available for publication by newspapers to the benefit of criminal gangs; vulnerable to possible hacking by the Chinese (for what purposes, he didn’t specify); and could possibly be handed over to the Mexican government, something he implied may soon occur.

In a swipe at President Obama, LaPierre referred to Chicago’s weak gun-prosecution record. But LaPierre focused more of his derision on Vice President Biden in particular. LaPierre mocked Biden’s advice to those who live in isolated areas, especially women. He referred to a recent Facebook town hall meeting, in which Biden advised those that feel unsafe to buy a shotgun, and in the event that they feel threatened by an intruder, to go out back and "fire off a couple of blasts" in an attempt to scare the intruder. Mr. LaPierre ridiculed this to great effect, telling his audience, whose smiles he verbally acknowledged, that the Vice President had told women "to empty their shotguns" into the air, thus leaving themselves defenseless.

"Have they lost their mind over at the White House? … You keep your advice. We’ll keep our guns," LaPierre exclaimed, drawing cheers. It is important to note that Mr. Biden is heading President Obama’s taskforce on gun violence.

In a further attempt to de-legitimize gun control advocates as crazy, LaPierre singled out for ridicule a comment made by pro-gun control Colorado State Senator Jesse Ulibari, who he claimed said women should use ballpoint pens to defend themselves against an armed attacker. He also cited an unspecified study from the University of Colorado that he says suggested women who are being raped should use passive resistance to defend themselves. In what was the biggest applause line of the speech, Mr. La Pierre declared "The one thing a violent rapist deserves to face is a good woman with a gun."

To wrap up his speech, Mr. LaPierre reiterated his calls for better enforcement of existing gun laws, armed guards at the nation’s schools, and strengthening the mental-health system. He then played an NRA-produced video overlaid with stirring patriotic themes and images of the flag in the background. The video showed Americans shooting firearms at gun-ranges as the narrator repeated quotes from Barack Obama and Bill Clinton about gun-control, accompanied by rhetorical flourishes like "This is our country" and "We grant them power." If the American people had any hope that the NRA might agree to what polls have shown most of them want -universal background checks- those hopes were dashed today.

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Pierce Willans

Naturalized New Jerseyan and compulsively political, Pierce has been passionate about politics and current events since middle school. He currently majors in political science and hopes to one day work in Washington D.C. His main interests are electoral politics, how Congress works, foreign relations, gun policy, and infrastructure. Other interests include history, coffee, making new discoveries on Netflix, and learning from the school of personal experience.

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