NRA Leader: Gun Ownership a 'Fundamental Human Right' of Responsible Americans Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the National Rifle Association, addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
By Jay Clemons | Friday, 27 May 2022 06:32 PM
National Rifle Association officials expressed empathy Friday for the victims of this week's mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, but also stood behind the notion of responsible gun ownership for U.S. citizens, characterizing it as a "fundamental human right."
At the NRA annual convention in Houston, CEO Wayne LaPierre told his members that Tuesday's shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde — which led to the deaths of 19 children and two adults — "should never happen again."
LaPierre also called for more security at schools, substantive changes to the criminal justice system, and fresh government funding to "fix our nation's broken mental health system" — with each component geared toward preventing future school shootings.
"We need to protect our schools, because our children deserve at least, and in fact more protection than our banks, stadiums and government buildings … so that every school has a comprehensive security program tailored specifically to that school to meet its security needs," said LaPierre, who has maintained an executive role with the NRA since 1991.
LaPierre then added: "Restricting the fundamental human right of law-abiding Americans to defend themselves is not the answer. It never has been."
The NRA weekend convention has already drawn a wave of protesters outside the George R. Brown Convention Center.
According to a Twitter video taken by NBC News senior investigative reporter Mike Hixenbaugh, young children are apparently lining up across the street from the convention venue, carrying protest signs and wearing T-shirt images of the Uvalde kids and teachers killed in Tuesday's shooting.
In the video, the T-shirt pictures presumably account for the 21 Uvalde victims.
Some children can be seen holding signs that read, "Am I next?"
Other signs say, "We need gun control, not just thoughts and prayers."
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott recorded a Friday message for convention attendees, saying, "There are thousands of laws on the books across the country that limit the owning or using of firearms, laws that have not stopped madmen from carrying out evil acts on innocent people in peaceful communities."
Jason Ouimet, executive director of the NRA's lobbying arm, told supporters the group's pro-gun messaging will remain prominent in the 2022 midterms.
And South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican, encouraged convention attendees to stick together in this harrowing time.
"Now is not the time to quit. Now would be the worst time to quit. Now is when we double down," said Noem on Friday.
On Wednesday, centrist Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has embraced calls for national gun reform, but stopped short of supporting any measure that requires the Senate filibuster to be scrapped.
The filibuster currently requires a 60-vote threshold to enact sweeping changes to any established law.
Regarding the filibuster, Manchin said it's "the only thing that prevents us from total insanity."
Apparently, no active NRA member has ever been implicated in a mass shooting in the United States; the group of reportedly 5 million members often bears the brunt of protest heat when a shooting occurs.