The opening morning of CPAC belonged to the National Rifle Association, with two of its most prominent leaders—executive vice president Wayne LaPierre and spokeswoman Dana Loesch—offering fiery defenses of gun ownership as Americans continued to mourn the victims of the Parkland, Florida, shooting.
Loesch was first to speak. The previous night, she’d taken part in a CNN town hall in which she was angrily confronted by the parents of Parkland victims. Loesch’s husband, Chris, called the town hall “a Trotskyite show trial against the Second Amendment” in a CPAC panel earlier Thursday morning. Loesch also cast the previous night’s critics as a group of rabid liberals.
“There were people rushing the stage and screaming ‘burn her,’” she said.
Speaking with her customarily crisp delivery, Loesch was fiery, unapologetic and controversial. “Many in the legacy media love mass shootings,” she said.
“You love the ratings,” she explained. “Crying white mothers are ratings gold.”
She echoed President Trump’s accusations that the FBI “dropped the ball” on warnings about the, alleged shooter, Nikolas Cruz. It was a “failure of law enforcement,” Loesch charged.
Loesch was followed by Wayne La Pierre, whose presence at CPAC was kept as something of a secret. The speech, though, was largely a disappointment, judging by the audience’s flagging attention. La Pierre blamed “the opportunists” who sought to turn tragedies like the Parkland shooting into a referendum on Second Amendment. He also maligned socialism, Antifa, Black Lives Matter, and other favorite conservative targets.
Much like Loesch before him, LaPierre offered little sympathy for the victims of gun violence, nor made any overtures to those who seek to work with the gun lobby on sensible legislation. He suggested that schools should be “hardened” as targets, a seeming reference to arming some teachers. President Trump has voiced some support for the idea, though others vigorously oppose it.
“The NRA does care,” La Pierre said.
He did not say about what, exactly.
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