WASHINGTON -- National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre on Thursday sharply condemned both the media and lawmakers for their response to the Tucson shootings, accusing them of glorifying the shooter and legislative overreach, respectively.
The longtime NRA header, who helps command a four million member organization, said that the press made a "celebrity" out of Jared Loughner the accused shooter of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and 19 others.
"We continue to pray for [the victims] and wish them well. But the national media wasted no time in making a celebrity out of the deranged killer. His photo was all over the place, that monster," he said. "It turns a bad man into a hero for every potential deranged copy cat out there. It is sick, it is wrong and the media ought to be ashamed of themselves."
LaPierre had been relatively quiet as the political world renewed the debate over the boundaries of gun-rights following the Tucson shoots. But his annual address to the Conservative Political Action Conference forum provided him with both a widely watched stage and a sympathetic audience. His speech, filled with cutting critiques about political elites, the press, and illegal immigrants, was filled with harrowing anecdotes, 9-1-1 audio and video footage (even from Egypt).
Applause was polite throughout, but only loud when he called on Congress to allow all law-abiding Americans to have the right to carry a firearm for their own protection.
"The media and the political elites want us to believe that if we just pass another law or two we can stop a madman bent on violence," said LaPierre. "If we could have legislated evil out of peoples' hearts we would have done it long ago."