Public schools will get free help from the National Rifle Association (NRA), said Wayne LaPierre, the NRA executive vice president, speaking on the first day of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Oxon Hill, Maryland, outside Washington, D.C.
“Evil walks among us, and God help us if we don’t harden our schools and protect our kids,” said LaPierre, speaking to attendees at the annual gathering of thousands of conservative leaders, activists and journalists from across the country.
“In every community in America … they all must come together to implement the very best strategy to harden their schools, including effective, trained, armed security that will absolutely protect every innocent child in this country,” said LaPierre.
LaPierre addressed CPAC a little over one week after a gunman killed 17 victims at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The suspect, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, formerly attended the school and had a history of making violent threats. Cruz shot the students, teachers and staff members with an AR-15 rifle.
The NRA came under fire after the shooting for its vigorous efforts to protect Americans’ Second Amendment rights following yet another mass shooting. But LaPierre argued that the entire discussion “has become so dishonest in the national media and so dishonest among the politicians that you can barely stand it.”
“The NRA does care. We at the NRA are Americans who continue to mourn and care and work every day at contributing real solutions to this very real problem. Real practical action to truly protect our children,” LaPierre said.
“It’s a bizarre fact that in this country our jewelry stores all over this country are more important than our children. Our banks, our airports, our NBA games, our NFL games, our office buildings, our movie stars, our politicians, they are all more protected than our children at school,” he said.
“Does that make any sense to anybody? Do we really love our money and our celebrities more than we love our children?” LaPierre continued. “Can we answer that question honestly, knowing that we surround and protect so much with armed security while we drop our kids off at school, that are so-called gun-free zones, that are wide open targets for any crazy madman bent on evil to come there first?”
Parents drop their kids off at schools “that are virtually wide-open soft targets for anyone bent on mass murder” every single day, LaPierre said.
“It should not be easier for a madman to shoot up a school than a bank or a jewelry store or some Hollywood gala. Schools must be the most hardened targets in this country. An evil must be confronted immediately with all necessary force to protect our kids,” LaPierre said. “To stop a bad guy with a gun, it takes a good guy with a gun.”
President Donald Trump threw his support behind some of the solutions addressing gun violence that were brought to the table in a series of tweets Thursday morning.
“I will be strongly pushing Comprehensive Background Checks with an emphasis on Mental Health. Raise age to 21 and end sale of Bump Stocks! Congress is in a mood to finally do something on this issue — I hope!” Trump tweeted.
“What many people don’t understand, or don’t want to understand, is that Wayne, Chris and the folks who work so hard at the @NRA are Great People and Great American Patriots. They love our Country and will do the right thing. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”
Trump also said that he would be meeting with lawmakers Thursday “to discuss school safety” and with the nation’s governors next week, adding, “It’s been many years of all talk, no action. We’ll get it done!”