National Rifle Association (NRA) CEO Wayne LaPierre on Tuesday offered a sharp critique of President Obama’s second inaugural address, warning that his agenda threatened to make a “mockery” of the nation’s constitutional freedoms.
In a speech in Reno, Nev., which the nation’s most prominent gun-rights lobby billed as a “major response” to the president’s address, LaPierre pressed his attack on Obama’s push for stricter gun laws in the aftermath of last month’s deadly Newtown, Conn., mass shooting.
“In his second inaugural address, President Barack Obama quoted the Declaration of Independence and he talked about 'unalienable rights,' " said LaPierre. “I would argue that his words make a mockery of both.”
The NRA leader focused his speech on the president’s inaugural remark that “we cannot mistake absolutism for principle.”
“Obama wants to turn the idea of ‘absolutism’ into a dirty word, just another word for ‘extremism,’ ” said LaPierre. “He wants you to accept the idea of ‘principles’ as he sees fit to define them. It's a way of redefining words so that common sense is turned upside-down and nobody knows the difference.”
He said gun owners were faced with a “false ultimatum” in the debate over stemming gun violence.
“We're told that to stop insane killers, we must accept less freedom — less than the criminal class and political class keep for themselves,” said LaPierre. “Obama is saying that the only ‘principled’ way to make children safe is to make lawful citizens less safe and violent criminals more safe.”
The president is making a forceful push on gun violence, signing a number of executive actions and proposing legislative measures, including universal background checks, and bans on the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition.
Those measures, though, likely face a tough fight on Capitol Hill, where many GOP lawmakers have pledged to oppose efforts to tighten gun-ownership restrictions, calling instead for more attention on mental health issues and the role of violence in entertainment culture.
LaPierre targeted the call for universal background checks, saying Obama wanted “to put every private, personal transaction under the thumb of the federal government, and he wants to keep all those names in a massive federal registry.”
“There are only two reasons for that federal list of gun owners — to tax them or take them. And to anyone who says that’s excessive, Barack Obama says you’re an ‘absolutist,’ ” he added.
The NRA has been at the forefront of the opposition to gun reform, arguing that more restrictions will do little to prevent future violence.
Last week, the gun lobby released a video ad criticizing Obama as an “elitist hypocrite” for opposing its call for armed guards in schools. The ad cited the security detail assigned to protect the president’s daughters and brought a sharp response from the White House, which denounced it as “repugnant and “cowardly.”
But polls show growing support for a number of measures proposed by Obama, and the White House has sought to rally public opinion to push Congress to act quickly.
In his inaugural address, the president made mention of his efforts at reducing gun crime.
“Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia, to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm,” said Obama on Monday.
But Obama can expect the NRA to wage a tough fight.
“We believe we deserve, and have every right to, the same level of freedom that our government leaders keep for themselves, and the same capabilities and same technologies that criminals use to prey upon us and our families,” said LaPierre. “That means we believe in our right to defend ourselves and our families with semi-automatic technology.
"We believe that if neither the criminal nor the political class is limited by magazine capacity, we shouldn't be limited in our capacity either,” he added.