While in Nashville, one of the nation’s top gun rights leaders took aim at the president for straying from goals to ensure school safety as a top priority this year.
Ensuring every school has access to an armed officer needs to be on the agenda, not pushed aside in favor of gun control measures that will hamper law-abiding citizens, said Wayne LaPierre, National Rifle Association’s executive vice president, to members of the National Wild Turkey Federation Thursday during the group's annual convention held at Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center.
“It’s not about keeping kids safe at school. That wasn’t even mentioned in the president’s speech,” said LaPierre to a group of NWTF officials estimated at more than 500 people.
“They only care about their ... decades old gun control agenda. Ban every gun they can, tax every gun sold and register every American gun owner. The president has taken the art of public deception and manipulation to a whole new level on this one,” LaPierre said.
In the president’s State of the Union address this week, he called on lawmakers to vote on the gun legislation before them, such as stiffer background checks  and banning certain weapons and high-capacity magazines.
LaPierre criticized those efforts and instead renewed NRA’s call for the government to focus on installing armed school security officers in every school, an idea lawmakers in Tennessee are also considering  but have yet to act on.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, who said he considers LaPierre a “personal friend,” said he agrees that gun control legislation in Washington is off target.
“What they’re trying to do is simply feel good and doesn’t stop anything. It does just punish law abiding citizens,” said Ramsey. He recalled his wife buying him his family’s long-held gun from his uncle for Christmas, an emotional gift he said brought tears to his eyes.
“She gave that to me as a present. If this law passes, my uncle would have had to do a background check on my wife to make sure that she had no criminal record before he sold it to her. Before she gave it to me on Christmas morning, she would have had to do a background check on me to give it to me,” Ramsey said.
In the same vein, he said the legislation would not deter criminals from buying guns on the street.
While some of the gun control policies up for debate in Washington will not directly affect gun owners who hunt turkey, George Thornton, CEO of the NWTF, said he’s afraid restrictions will pave the way for further dissolving gun protections.
“You really don’t need large clips for hunting. However, there is a very strong belief that once you start to limit things, that the limits continue to chip away,” he said.
LaPierre’s response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address comes at the heels of his editorial charging that an eventual financial fall of the federal government could mean a breakdown of law enforcement.
“Nobody knows if or when the fiscal collapse will come, but if the country is broke, there likely won’t be enough money to pay for police protection. And the American people know it,” read his editorial .
Reporters were not allowed inside the NWTF conference to watch the speech but instead were instructed to watch the feed through a webcast in another part of the conference center.