“Is the press and the political class here in Washington, D.C., so consumed by fear and hatred of the NRA and American gun owners,’’ LaPierre said, “that you’re willing to accept the world, where real resistance to evil monsters is [an] alone, unarmed school principal left to surrender her life, her life, to shield those children in her care?’’
LaPierre, 63, has long specialized in stirring up the NRA’s estimated 4 million members and his legions of political foes, and condemnation poured in Friday from gun-control advocates.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) called his performance “shameful,’’ while Rep. James P. Moran (D-Va.) labeled it “galling” and said that the NRA’s opposition to “sensible gun safety reforms . . . may well backfire.”
Friends of LaPierre, a native of the Roanoke area who enjoys hunting birds and big game, defended his comments and described him as a bookish, quiet political junkie who is different in private from his public persona.
“He’s really a low-key guy, not a screaming hell-raiser,’’ said Richard Feldman, a former NRA lobbyist who wrote a book about the organization. “You can criticize the NRA on a lot of things, but how can anybody criticize what he said about having security at schools?’’
Joseph Tartaro, president of the pro-gun rights Second Amendment Foundation, said LaPierre “may feed on” the criticism because “he sees this not only as a question of defense of self, but defense of community. He thinks that if people are so driven that they don’t understand the good side of guns, he feels he has to oppose them at every turn.’’
Those beliefs have led LaPierre to make a series of statements that hearten gun-rights advocates but infuriate those who oppose him. Earlier this year, he warned a conservative audience that President Obama’s reelection would mean that “America as we know it will be on its way to being lost forever.” After then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and others were wounded or killed in last year’s shooting rampage in Tucson, he said that “the acts of a deranged madman” should not cause restrictions on law-abiding gun owners.
The man who once called federal agents “jack-booted government thugs” (a comment he later apologized for) summarized his philosophy in a 1992 column for the NRA publication American Rifleman: “When you’re at war,’’ LaPierre wrote, “you do what it takes to win.”