Dana Loesch has been at the center of the storm in the national gun debate, striking a forceful defense for gun rights at a CNN town hall and in a fiery appearance before the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
The National Rifle Association (NRA) spokeswoman has taken a starring role in the organization’s efforts to push back at calls for tougher gun restrictions following a deadly mass shooting at a Florida high school that left 17 people dead.
The shooting has created new challenges for the NRA, as young students who survived the attack on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., have emerged as telegenic, outspoken proponents for gun restrictions, including a ban on assault weapons.
Loesch, a host on Blaze TV before joining the NRA, has been the organization’s public face, and on Wednesday endured tough questions in front of a generally hostile audience at the CNN town hall.
“Dana Loesch, I want you to know that we will support your two children in a way that you will not,” Emma González, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, said before asking a question about whether it should be harder to obtain semi-automatic weapons and devices such as bump stocks, which allow weapons fire faster.
“Well first off Emma, I want to applaud you for standing up and speaking out,” Loesch responded, saying that none of the students should be criticized for speaking out. “I was a politically active teenager, and I’m on this stage as a result of that,” she said.
“Now, I want to answer your question, and I want to be allowed the opportunity, which is why I am here, to talk and have this discussion with you all and answer these questions,” she continued as the crowd jeered her.
She then said the shooter in Florida should never have had access to a gun, and argued that federal laws that do not require states to provide data to the National Crime Information Center is to blame for mentally ill people having access to guns.
“This individual was nuts, and I nor the millions of people that I represent as a part of the organization that I’m hear speaking for, none of us support people who are crazy, who are a danger to themselves, who are a danger to others, getting their hands on a firearm,” said Loesch.
Loesch’s comments did little to win over the Florida crowd, but her performance at CPAC the next day was well-received by that audience when she tore into the media, which she said loved mass shootings because of the ratings.
“You guys love it. I'm not saying that you love the tragedy, but I am saying that you love the ratings,” she said. “Crying white mothers are ratings gold to you and many in the legacy media in the back.”
In a fiery TV interview on Friday, CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota slammed Loesch for her comments, calling her malicious.
“You know that you’re using heated rhetoric … How is that part of the solution?” Camerota asked.
But Loesch doubled down, “It's the truth,” she said.
The events highlighted Loesch’s star power and divisiveness. At CPAC, she appeared to outshine NRA chief Wayne LaPierre, who received a more subdued reaction from the crowd after Loesch.
Loesch was hired as a major national spokeswoman for the NRA last February, but the 39-year-old previously had served as a special adviser to the gun lobby on women’s policy issues as well as a commentator on NRA TV.
The NRA declined to comment for this story.
Loesch gained notoriety hosting the nationally syndicated daily radio show, “The Dana Show,” as well as “Dana” on TheBlaze TV.
“Very smart, talented, and professional,” conservative radio host Buck Sexton said of his former colleague.
Loesch has also been controversial.
She earned some notoriety in 2012 for defending U.S. soldiers accused of urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters.
“Can someone explain to me if there’s supposed to be a scandal that someone pees on the corpse of a Taliban fighter?” she said at the time. “Someone who, as part of an organization, murdered over 3,000 Americans? I’d drop trou and do it too.”
In the introduction to her first of two books, “Hands Off My Gun: Defeating the Plot to Disarm America,” Loesch details how her grandpa taught her how to shoot a BB gun in the backyard when she was young and how guns became an assuring source of protection from threats she received while speaking her mind politically.
But before Loesch was a conservative firebrand, the Missouri native spent years writing about parenting and home schooling her two sons on her Mamalogues blog, which the St. Louis Dispatch picked up and ran as a regular column until 2008.
“I take my gun rights very personally,” Loesch wrote in her book in 2014.
“I view it as a threat to my and my family’s well-being whenever anyone seeks to erode or take away my Second Amendment civil liberty. The people screeching about disarming someone like me, a mother trying to protect her family – and make no mistake, that’s exactly what they are doing – do not face what I face.”