Wayne LaPierre, the chief executive officer of the National Rifle Association, assailed President Barack Obama on Thursday for not addressing school security more specifically during his State of the Union address.
“In an hourlong speech, nowhere were the words ‘school safety’ to be found,” LaPierre said at a meeting in Nashville, Tenn., of the National Wild Turkey Federation, a hunting and conservation organization. “Less than two months after saying we had to look at our schools, the president made not one mention, in his entire speech, of the need to improve security for our schoolchildren.”
LaPierre, the fiery leader of the powerful pro-gun lobbying group, accused Obama of deflecting public attention from school security by using the State of the Union address Tuesday to instead call for new restrictions on guns and ammunition, including a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and a requirement that most gun sales be subject to a criminal-background check.
“None of it, from universal checks to universal gun bans — none of it does anything to keep our children safer in their schools,” LaPierre said. “That’s not what President Obama wants. That’s why he didn’t even mention it in his speech.”
The president’s speech “displayed a level of political fraud and public deception that cannot be ignored,” LaPierre said.
He also reiterated the NRA’s position, first articulated in the aftermath of the Dec. 14 shooting massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., that Congress should provide funding for armed security personnel at every school in the nation. Currently, about a third of the nation’s public schools have armed guards.
Even as LaPierre blasted Obama for “public deception,” however, his own speech mischaracterized the White House’s policy positions.
For example, although Obama did not specifically reference “school safety” in his address, he did stress protection of the young, calling on lawmakers to “come together to protect our most precious resource, our children.” Obama also has called for heightened school security as part of a broader series of legislative proposals that he is pushing.
LaPierre also said the administration’s background-check proposal would result in the names of law-abiding private citizens being added to a “massive database, subject to potential federal registration and abuse of privacy.” But Sen. Charles E. Schumer, the New York Democrat who is developing the legislation along with senators of both parties, has ruled out a federal registry.
Lanae Erickson Hatalsky, director of the Social Policy and Politics Program at the centrist Democratic think tank Third Way, said that LaPierre’s remarks disrespected the president and that the NRA fears proposals being considered by some in Congress.
Besides the bipartisan Senate group working on expanded background checks, she said, there is also bipartisan support for legislation that would crack down on gun traffickers. The NRA has called that effort unnecessary.
“The NRA is pretty scared because they can see things are getting away from them,” Erickson Hatalsky said. “The momentum is all moving in the opposite direction in a way it hasn’t been in decades.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.