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Saturday, December 16, 2017

The National Rifle Association broke its silence on the Orlando mass shootings Monday afternoon with a storm of objections to gun control measures on its Twitter feed and in an op-ed piece in USA Today assailing president Obama and “political correctness” by Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action.

Cox claimed that laws allowing civilians to purchase the military-style semi-automatic assault rifle allegedly used by lone gunman Omar Mateen to murder 49 people at the Pulse gay nightclub early Sunday morning had nothing to do with the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. He claimed that “radical Islamic terrorists are not deterred by gun control laws.”

Mateen, a suspected homophobe and apparently ISIS-inspired terrorist who carried out the carnage, was killed by police. He has since been identified as a regular at Pulse.

The NRA had no official statement to offer Monday when The National Memo called its media relations office twice to inquire about the gun lobby’s response to the massacre and to the actions of Mateen, a U.S. citizen born of Afghan parents in New York who also injured 53 other people with his brand new Sigsauer MCX assault rifle. He was able to purchase the weapon (plus a Glock 17 handgun) from a Florida dealer despite having been interviewed by the FBI in 2013 and 2014 for his alleged extremist comments to colleagues and purported ties to an American man who acted as a suicide bomber in Syria.

It took NRA executive vice president Wayne La Pierre a week to issue a statement on the 2012 slaughter of 20 school children at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut by deranged gunman Adam Lanza, who was also armed with an AR-15 assault rifle. He murdered seven others, including his own mother and himself.

 LaPierre incensed gun control advocates at the time by advocating for armed security guards at schools, just as there are for sports stadiums, government buildings and for the president of the United States.

“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” LaPierre declared at a news conference. 

It was a line that Donald Trump, the NRA-endorsed presumptive Republican nominee for president, pretty much parroted and expanded upon during an interview aired Monday on NBC’s Today show, when he claimed that “millions” of innocent gun owners needed their guns for protection. “I absolutely wouldn’t [ban assault rifles] because people need protection; they have to protect,” he said, adding that, otherwise, “the bad guys will have the assault rifles and the people trying to protect themselves will be standing there with a BB gun.”

Trump wrote that he supported a ban on assault weapons in his 2000 book, The America We Deserve, but he has taken a sharp turn to the right during the 2016 election season by appealing to fears of terrorism.

“Hillary Clinton says the solution is to ban guns,” Trump said in a prepared statement during a campaign stop Monday at Saint Anselm’s college in Manchester, N.H. “They tried that in France, which has among the toughest gun laws in the world, and 130 were brutally murdered by Islamic terrorists in cold blood.”

Speaking from a teleprompter, Trump claimed without substantiation that Clinton’s plan was “to disarm law-abiding Americans, abolishing the 2nd amendment, and leaving only the bad guys and terrorists with guns. She wants to take away Americans’ guns, then admit the very people who want to slaughter us.”

The bellicose Manhattan businessman also noted he would be meeting with the NRA to discuss how to ensure that Americans “have the means to protect themselves in this age of terror.”

Hillary Clinton took the opposite position.

“We need to get these weapons of war off the streets,” she said Monday. “We had an assault weapons ban, it expired, and we need to reinstate it. From San Bernardino to Aurora, Colorado, to Sandy Hook and now to Orlando, we have seen the devastation that these military style weapons cause.”

Clinton drew sustained applause and several standing ovations when she spoke a pre-scheduled event in Cleveland, Ohio. She devoted most of it to the terror attack in Orlando and strongly called for stricter gun controls. “If the FBI. is watching you for suspected terrorist links, you shouldn’t be able to just go buy a gun.” she said.

She made no mention of Trump in her remarks.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is still running for the Democratic presidential nomination as an underdog candidate battling Clinton against near impossible odds, told Chuck Todd on Meet the Press on Sunday that he has long supported a ban on “automatic” weapons — presumably meaning assault rifles, as the weapon used in Orlando was semi-automatic, meaning it fires as quickly as its operator can pull the trigger.

Calling the attacks in Orlando horrific, Sanders stated bluntly, “For 25 years now, I’ve believed that we should not be selling automatic weapons which are designed to kill people, and we’ve got to do everything we can on top of that to make sure that guns do not fall into the hands of people who should not have them. Criminals and people who are mentally ill, so the struggle continues.”

Todd then asked Sanders if America could ever have a conversation about guns and terrorism without it becoming politicized. Replied the self-described democratic socialist, “I do, Chuck. Because I think that there is a very broad consensus in this country, not a hundred percent of the people, [but] overwhelming majority of gun owners and non-gun owners understand that we have got to do everything we can to prevent guns from falling into the hands of people who should not have them. That means expanding the instant background check. It means doing away with the gun show loopholes. It means addressing the strawman provision. I think there is a wide consensus to move forward in that direction.”

Sanders once earning an A rating from the NRA,. But during his campaign he has boasted of more recently receiving a D minus report from the gun lobby.

In the wake of last year’s deadly San Bernadino mass shooting by an ISIS-inspired couple, Sanders voted Dec. 3, 2015 for two bills that would bar suspected terrorists, felons and the mentally ill from getting guns. Republicans in the Senate almost unanimously rejected it. They recited familiar NRA arguments that such a provision would strip some innocent people of their constitutional rights to gun access.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told the New York Daily News back then that he was “aghast” that Republicans blocked the bills. “To say it’s okay for would-be terrorists to buy guns after what happened in Paris and in California shows just a total disregard for public safety and a total fear of the NRA. and it’s hard to believe the NRA could be so unreasonable. They’re digging their own grave,” he said.

Photo: Donald Trump addresses members of the National Rifle Association’s during their NRA-ILA Leadership Forum during their annual meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, May 20, 2016. REUTERS/John Sommers II

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