WASHINGTON -- Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the National Rifle Association, will tell members of Congress on Wednesday that "law-abiding gun owners will not accept blame for the acts of violent or deranged criminals," and the government should not "dictate what we can lawfully own and use to protect our families."
The comments are part of prepared remarks LaPierre plans to deliver at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is looking at ways to curb gun violence in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. Also testifying alongside violence prevention experts on Wednesday will be Mark Kelly, the husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who suffered a near-fatal gunshot wound in Tucson in 2011.
In a speech that is uncharacteristically reserved for LaPierre, he will argue that nearly all of the gun control measures currently being debated in Congress are either ineffective or impossible to enforce. His prepared remarks also contend that an assault weapons ban has been proven to have "no impact on lowering crime."
"And when it comes to the issue of background checks, let's be honest -- background checks will never be 'universal' -- because criminals will never submit to them."
Instead, LaPierre plans to reiterate the NRA's controversial plan to prevent school shootings, placing armed guards in schools, which he introduced last month at a press conference.
"It's time to throw an immediate blanket of security around our children. About a third of our schools have armed security already -- because it works. And that number is growing."
LaPierre's prepared remarks, which were released early to reporters, lack much of the ire he has directed at President Barack Obama, the "mainstream media," video game manufacturers, gun control advocates and others in recent weeks.
His comments depart from the tone of LaPierre's first press conference after the Sandy Hook massacre, when he seemed to blame Washington's political class (including the Senate) and the press for creating a situation in which the only way to save children was for teachers to die in their places.
"Is the press and political class here in Washington so consumed by fear and hatred of the NRA and America's gun owners that you're willing to accept a world where real resistance to evil monsters is a lone, unarmed school principal left to surrender her life to shield the children in her care?" he said in December. "No one -- regardless of personal political prejudice -- has the right to impose that sacrifice."
The change in LaPierre's tone is likely a reflection of who his audience will be on Wednesday. Plenty of senators on the bipartisan committee are Republicans and outspoken supporters of the NRA and the gun rights movement, including the two GOP senators from Texas, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz.
LaPierre's moderate, "help me help you" tone may also reflect a desire not to place his congressional backers in the awkward position of appearing to be aligned with some of the NRA's more controversial decisions of late, most notably a web ad featuring President Obama's children.
The hearing will take place Wednesday at 10 a.m., and will be broadcast live.
Read LaPierre's full opening statement below:
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee:
It's an honor to be here today on behalf of more than 4.5 million moms and dads and sons and daughters, in every state across our nation, who make up the National Rifle Association of America. Those 4.5 million active members are joined by tens of millions of NRA supporters.
And it's on behalf of those millions of decent, hardworking, law-abiding citizens ... to give voice to their concerns ... that I'm here today.
The title of today's hearing is "What should America do about gun violence?"
We believe the answer to that question is to be honest about what works -- and what doesn't work.
Teaching safe and responsible gun ownership works -- and the NRA has a long and proud history of teaching it.
Our "Eddie Eagle" children's safety program has taught over 25 million young children that if they see a gun, they should do four things: "Stop. Don't touch. Leave the area. Tell an adult." As a result of this and other private sector programs, fatal firearm accidents are at the lowest levels in more than 100 years.
The NRA has over 80,000 certified instructors who teach our military personnel, law enforcement officers and hundreds of thousands of other American men and women how to safely use firearms. We do more -- and spend more -- than anyone else on teaching safe and responsible gun ownership.
We joined the nation in sorrow over the tragedy that occurred in Newtown, Connecticut. There is nothing more precious than our children. We have no more sacred duty than to protect our children and keep them safe. That's why we asked former Congressman and Undersecretary of Homeland Security, Asa Hutchison, to bring in every expert available to develop a model School Shield Program -- one that can be individually tailored to make our schools as safe as possible.
It's time to throw an immediate blanket of security around our children. About a third of our schools have armed security already -- because it works. And that number is growing. Right now, state officials, local authorities and school districts in all 50 states are considering their own plans to protect children in their schools.
In addition, we need to enforce the thousands of gun laws that are currently on the books. Prosecuting criminals who misuse firearms works. Unfortunately, we've seen a dramatic collapse in federal gun prosecutions in recent years. Overall in 2011, federal weapons prosecutions per capita were down 35 percent from their peak in the previous administration. That means violent felons, gang members and the mentally ill who possess firearms are not being prosecuted. And that's unacceptable.
And out of more than 76,000 firearms purchases denied by the federal instant check system, only 62 were referred for prosecution and only 44 were actually prosecuted. Proposing more gun control laws -- while failing to enforce the thousands we already have -- is not a serious solution to reducing crime.
I think we can also agree that our mental health system is broken. We need to look at the full range of mental health issues, from early detection and treatment, to civil commitment laws, to privacy laws that needlessly prevent mental health records from being included in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
While we're ready to participate in a meaningful effort to solve these pressing problems, we must respectfully -- but honestly and firmly -- disagree with some members of this committee, many in the media, and all of the gun control groups on what will keep our kids and our streets safe.
Law-abiding gun owners will not accept blame for the acts of violent or deranged criminals. Nor do we believe the government should dictate what we can lawfully own and use to protect our families.
As I said earlier, we need to be honest about what works and what does not work. Proposals that would only serve to burden the law-abiding have failed in the past and will fail in the future.
Semi-automatic firearms have been around for over 100 years. They are among the most popular guns made for hunting, target shooting and self-defense. Despite this fact, Congress banned the manufacture and sale of hundreds of semi-automatic firearms and magazines from 1994 to 2004. Independent studies, including a study from the Clinton Justice Department, proved that ban had no impact on lowering crime.
And when it comes to the issue of background checks, let's be honest -- background checks will never be "universal" -- because criminals will never submit to them.
But there are things that can be done and we ask you to join with us. The NRA is made up of millions of Americans who support what works ... the immediate protection for all -- not just some -- of our school children; swift, certain prosecution of criminals with guns; and fixing our broken mental health system.
We love our families and our country. We believe in our freedom. We're the millions of Americans from all walks of life who take responsibility for our own safety and protection as a God-given, fundamental right.
Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, I thank you for your time and consideration.