President Donald Trump spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Friday, energizing the crowd and repeatedly bringing them to their feet. The president outlined an agenda that includes a diverse range of priorities, from confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, reducing the regulatory burden on the economy, cracking down on crime, rebuilding inner cities, an emphasis on fairer, bilateral trade agreements, and measures to stimulate the domestic energy industry.
Significantly missing, however, was a commitment to legislative action on the Hill concerning the right to keep and bear arms.
The President did give a shout-out to the right to keep and bear arms in his speech, averring that he remained committed to protecting the Second Amendment, and warmly greeted National Rifle Association honchos Chris Cox and Wayne LaPierre. Unlike the specific actions he mentioned for other agenda items, however, Mr. Trump made no reference to any specific executive or legislative actions to execute that task.
Later Friday afternoon, LaPierre, the NRA Executive Vice President, gave a speech during which he more closely aligned the 146-year-old educational and civil rights organization with the Trump administration and the conservative movement. LaPierre focused his comments on culture war issues, and like President Trump, did not talk much about legislative action on gun rights issues this year.
LaPierre cited a variety of post-election violence aimed against supporters of the President. He also criticized what he characterized as activist judges on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that stayed President Trump’s executive order freezing entry into the United States of nationals from Libya, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, and Somalia for 90 days.
LaPierre accused the left of “literally hat[ing] everything America stands for: democracy, free market capitalism, representative government, individual freedom. They want to tear down our system and replace it with their collectivist, top-down, global government-knows-best utopia. They all have different agendas, but share one thing in common: they are angry, they’re militant, and willing to engage in criminal violence to get what they want.”
Imputing hypocrisy to the progressive movement, LaPierre pointed out that even at UC-Berkeley, “the supposed birthplace of the Free Speech Movement of the ’60s, unpopular (i.e., conservative) speech was suppressed by violence. He also suggested that some protestors were getting paid “$1500 per week” for their activities without knowing “what they are protesting.”
Finally, LaPierre expressed concern over the so-called Islamic State, which he characterized as a threat to Western Civilization.
“If you’re a member of the leftist media or a soldier for the violent left, a violent criminal, a drug-cartel gang member, or a would-be terrorist, hear this,” he said. “You’re not going to win and you will not defeat us…. With all the threats facing America today, your right to protect yourself and your family may be more relevant and urgently needed than ever before.”