NRA's Wayne LaPierre hits left in defense of guns at CPAC

National Rifle Association Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference, at National Harbor Md. Thursday Feb. 22 2018

The pro-gun lobby has come under sharp criticism, particularly from students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school, for opposing efforts to curb the sale of semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15 used in the shootings. But, despite the objections of many educators, the idea to train and arm teachers remains part of the mix.

"The elites care not one whit about America's school system and schoolchildren", LaPierre added. He endorsed more stringent background checks for gun buyers, and ordered his Justice Department to work toward banning rapid-fire "bump stock" devices.

Before the hour-long meeting, he said he was keen to discuss violence in movies, reopening mental health institutions and raising the age limit on buying guns to 21.

The idea of arming teachers, while pushed by the NRA, is opposed by the nation's largest teachers union. She said the idea to arm herself in school began with the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 children and six adults died.

In his pledge to make schools safer and curb gun violence after the massacre at a Florida high school, gun advocates see a weakening resolve from the man they spent millions on to elect. "Cmon. We should not be sending this message out that we have to strap guns on to protect ourselves".

In the halls of CPAC, talk often turned to guns - and, importantly, how to respond to the latest slaughter at the hands of a rifle-wielding madman.

"The president has a unique ability right now to maybe really do something about these school shootings", said Tom Rooney, a Republican from Florida. "I did not get my Master's degree in teaching so I could become an armed guard", another wrote.

"Telling teachers they'd get a bonus for carrying one is insulting to every hardworking teacher in this country", she said.

"You want a hardened school, and I want a hardened school, too".

I told them, 'We're going to have to toughen up.' It doesn't make anyone look good.

"The NRA will back it and so will Congress", Mr Trump contended as he called for raising the legal age of purchase for "all" guns from 18 to 21.

"Can we 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 insane madman bent on evil to come there first?"

"Evil walks among us and God help us if we don't harden our schools and protect our kids", said Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre. He suggested that any further attempts at gun control would lead to mass gun confiscation and that our country would be "changed forever".

"I want my schools protected just like I want my banks protected", he said.

Paul Paradis, who owns a gun store in Colorado Springs, was enthusiastic about letting teachers carry firearms on campus.

Kelli Ward, a hardline conservative US Senate candidate from Arizona looking to fill the seat of retiring Senator Jeff Flake in November, said the national mourning over the Florida tragedy knows no political boundaries. I'm not going to roam the halls if I hear lockdown is occurring and someone's in the building. A poll released this week by ABC News/Washington Post says 42 percent of Americans believe teachers with guns could have prevented the Florida shooting. Students and parents from the Washington area also were present.

LaPierre also hit out at the "breathless national media" which he said was "eager to smear the NRA in the midst of genuine grief". "We all have a hard task in front of us ... balancing our individual rights with our obvious need for public safety".

Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said he was skeptical the president would follow though.

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