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For Wayne LaPierre, becoming an activist in the gun-rights movement was an easy choice. That’s because, he says, the road that eventually led him to lead what is arguable the most influential and largest pro-gun organization in the U.S. began years ago in southwestern Virginia, growing up around guns and the men who used and believed in them.
“People owned firearms and people enjoyed the freedom [of owning them],” said LaPierre, executive director of the National Rifle Association and author of “Guns, Freedom and Terrorism, published by WND Books.
“These freedoms we have are just freedoms on a thin piece of paper unless we stand up and fight for them everyday,” he told WorldNetDaily in a wide-ranging interview.
LaPierre says there is no one single issue that drove him to become one of the country’s most ardent gun-rights advocates. Rather, he said, “it was a number of things.”
“Growing up and participating in the right to own guns and using them to hunt, as well as watching the politicians get involved in the national debate where they were trying to restrict the Second Amendment and take away the freedom from people to own guns” led him to support the right of the people to be armed, he said.
Much of his political experience dealing with the gun issue came during his work in the Virginia Legislature, he said. There, he and legislators worked to enact a bill that established a mandatory jail sentence for a criminal who uses a firearm during the commission of a crime.
“I really began to realize that it’s only the day-to-day activism of individual citizens in this country that preserves the Second Amendment,” he said – a realization that eventually led him to the NRA.
The 4-million member NRA “is probably the foremost organization” in terms of gun rights, he said. “When I think of the NRA, I think of [an organization] working to preserve freedom and liberty. That’s really what it’s about.”
He said interest in gun rights in general has grown since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“There have been a number of polls asking the American public if they valued the Second Amendment more or less after 9-11, and about 50 percent said they valued it more and virtually no percentage that said less,” said LaPierre. “Whenever you have a situation where there’s a threat, where people feel uncertain, they hear the terror threats coming from the government that it’s not an if but a when there will be more attacks, people want to be safe. They want to be able to protect their family. They run right back to the Second Amendment.”
He likened Americans’ post-Sept. 11 response favoring gun rights to the riots in Los Angeles in 1992 following the Rodney King verdict. There, LaPierre said, homeowners and shopkeepers were defending their property with guns because they had no other choice.
“Authority completely broke down,” he said.
The NRA leader also said many anti-gun celebrity neighbors of Charleton Heston, the organization’s president, telephoned him saying, “‘Chuck, forget what I ever said about guns. Let me borrow one of yours; I’m scared.'”
In his book, LaPierre says gun-control lawmakers and their backers attempted to use the tragedy of 9-11 as a springboard to pass more anti-gun bills.
“Not long after the attacks Sarah Brady, head of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, shrilly claimed, ‘Incredibly, our soldiers could be gunned down by foreign terrorists armed with firearms purchased at American gun shows,'” LaPierre writes. “With that said, she inferred that anyone who opposed ‘closing the gun-show loophole’ automatically favored the slaughter of U.S. soldiers.”
He says legislation being pushed as a result of the attacks, “the McCain-Lieberman bill (after Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn.), contains numerous complications and loopholes that give a single federal official the ability to register citizens who attend gun shows and impose many other restrictions that have nothing to do with background checks on purchases. In the end, this is not a ‘gun-show loophole’ bill, but a gun-owner registration and a gun-show prohibition law that can be used by any administration that wants to collect data on its law-abiding citizens.”
But reflexively calling for more gun control, especially at a time when the nation is being threatened, was a political loser, LaPierre says.
“Bill Clinton even said he thought the gun issue probably elected President George Bush and defeated Al Gore,” he told WorldNetDaily.
[Democrats] had a failed [gun-control] agenda and they were looking for a way to revive it,” he said. “But when those planes smashed into the towers and the Pentagon, within a day the people that want to ban firearms ownership in the country … were changing all of their material. They were suddenly trying to scare Americans into believing that these terrorists – Hamas, al-Qaida, Hezbollah – were walking around to gun shows in Michigan, Maine and Texas looking to buy a few shotguns. It was ridiculous, but that’s what they were saying.
“They tried to piggyback their failed agenda on the back of a national tragedy. It’s sad, but that’s what they tried to do.”
LaPierre, in his book, also discusses total gun bans in other Western countries that have caused crime to skyrocket. He says statistics show that, for example, after England banned most private firearms ownership (after requiring them to register their weapons a few years earlier), robberies went up dramatically.
“Since then, crime has gone up 50 percent in Britain,” he said. “You’re six times more likely to be robbed in London than you are even in New York City.”
The same is true in Australia, he said. “Crime has gone up across the board, from home-invasion robberies to muggings.”
England has also banned “self-defense,” LaPierre said. “If you try to defend yourself with what the government calls an offensive weapon … you can be prosecuted and thrown in prison.”
“But,” he said, referring to three of the U.S. Senate’s most zealous gun-control proponents, “that kind of gun ban is utopia for Dianne Feinstein, Charlie Schumer and Hillary Clinton.”
Editor’s note: LaPierre’s book, “Guns, Freedom and Terrorism,” is available at WorldNetDaily’s online store.