NRA's LaPierre says gun rights struggle a 'long war'
ATLANTA (CNN) — Wayne LaPierre, the nation's most visible gun rights advocate, rallied supporters on Saturday for a renewed fight against gun-control, saying membership is up since the Newtown massacre and calling the effort to stop new limits a "long war" and a "fight for everything we care about."
Remarks by the National Rifle Association's executive vice president at the group's annual convention in Houston were heavy with militaristic and sweeping patriotic rhetoric and were characteristically hard on President Barack Obama, who has pushed for new firearms restrictions following the Connecticut school massacre in December.
The killings of more than two dozen elementary school children and educators in Newtown jolted the nation and energized gun control advocates, while putting enormous pressure on LaPierre's group with polls showing most Americans favoring some kind of new restrictions.
LaPierre said the NRA's membership has spiked since the shootings, reaching a record five million.
"We are in the midst of a once-in-a-generation fight for everything we care about. We have a chance to secure our freedom for a generation, or to lose it forever," LaPierre said.
A theme of the convention is the launch of what organizers are calling a "culture war" against new gun control.
"We must remain vigilant, ever resolute, and steadfastly growing and preparing for the even more critical battles that loom before us," LaPierre said.
LaPierre disparaged what he called Obama's "all out siege against our rights" and efforts in Congress to enact new gun control measures, calling it "political posturing."
"Mr. President, you can give all the speeches you want. You can conjure up all the polls you can and call NRA members all the nasty names you can think of but your gun control legislation won't stop one criminal, wouldn't make anyone safer anywhere," LaPierre said.
"And that flawed failure lost on its merits and got the defeat it deserved," mentioning the setback sustained by gun control advocates last month when a bipartisan compromise to expand background checks failed in the Senate.
The outcome was considered a victory for gun rights advocates, who lobbied hard to block its passage. Obama has vowed to keep pursuing new restrictions, and a co-author of the ill-fated legislative amendment is working to revive it.
LaPierre and the NRA propose, instead, that current laws be enforced, that schools include armed guards, that the government rebuild a "broken mental health system," and "for God's sake, leave the rest of us alone!"
LaPierre said the failed compromise background check proposal by Sens. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, and Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, were ineffective.
"The Manchin-Toomey bill you later backed wouldn't have prevented Newtown, wouldn't have prevented Tucson or Aurora and won't prevent the next tragedy," he said of other deadly mass shootings in Arizona in 2011 and Colorado last July.
"None of it, any of it have anything to do with keeping our children safe at school anywhere," he said.
LaPierre also struck out at New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has poured funds into the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns, for acting as a "national nanny" and criticized the media for, as he said, failing to hold Obama accountable.
In-coming NRA president Jim Porter is setting his sights on congressional midterm elections in 2014 as crucial in the gun rights debate, urging members to support House and Senate members who have voted against recent efforts to instate a background check system.