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NRA chief: Obama makes 'mockery' of American freedoms

By Lateef Mungin, CNN
updated 2:48 PM EST, Mon January 28, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • His response is the latest criticism against the president by the group
  • "He doesn't agree with the freedoms you cherish," the NRA chief says
  • Obama recently proposed background checks on all gun sales, among other measures
  • The gun lobby group called the president an "elitist hypocrite" last week

Can there be a solution to America's gun problems? Anderson Cooper looks at both sides of the debate in "Guns Under Fire: an AC360ยบ Town Hall Special" Thursday at 8 p.m. ET on CNN.

(CNN) -- The National Rifle Association chief issued a blistering retort to President Barack Obama's inaugural address, accusing him of name calling and limiting American freedoms.

Wayne LaPierre had been relatively silent since his controversial response to the shooting massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.

After the December 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, LaPierre held one public news conference where he doubled down on the NRA position: more guns, not fewer, provide true security.

In a speech late Tuesday night, he hit upon that same theme as he repeatedly criticized Obama and his inaugural speech Monday.

"President Barack Obama quoted the Declaration of Independence and he talked about 'unalienable rights.' I would argue that his words make a mockery of both," LaPierre said at the annual black-tie Weatherby International Hunting and Conservation Awards in Reno, Nevada.

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Several times, LaPierre homed in on one part of Obama's address, where the president said, "We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate."

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LaPierre said the president was attacking fervent supporters of the Second Amendment. Many of them believe it provides an absolute right to provide arms.

"When absolutes are abandoned for principles, the U.S. Constitution becomes a blank slate for anyone's graffiti," LaPierre said.

"Words do have meaning, Mr. President. And those meanings are absolute, especially when it comes to our Bill of Rights."

The re-emergence of the NRA's potent mouthpiece comes on the same day of another school shooting that captured national headlines -- the wounding of three people on a Texas college campus.

His speech also comes as Obama and some lawmakers focus on passing gun control measures. Polls show more people are warming up to the possibility.

Last week, Obama proposed background checks on all gun sales, and bans on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

With relatives of some of the 20 children killed in the Connecticut rampage looking on, Obama also signed 23 executive actions -- which don't require congressional approval -- to strengthen existing gun laws. They also take related steps on mental health and school safety.

In his speech Tuesday, LaPierre set his sights on Obama's proposal to expand background checks to anyone buying a gun, whether at a store or in a private sale at an auction or convention.

"There are only two reasons for that federal list of gun owners: to tax them or take them," he told the cheering crowd.

The tit-for-tat continues a running battle between the president and the powerful gun lobby.

Last week, the NRA released an advertisement that called the president an "elitist hypocrite," and asked why he opposes the idea of placing armed guards in every school -- a proposal pushed by the NRA -- despite the fact that his own children attend a school with similar security.

The ad was only slated to air on the Sportsman Channel, but has gained strong media attention, both on the airwaves and online. It has also garnered criticism.

Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey criticized it for making a reference to the president's children in a political attack commercial.

Speaking at a news conference last week, the outspoken governor decried the move as "reprehensible" and argued that the group lost some credibility by making the ad.

"And I think for any of us who are public figures, you see that kind of ad and you cringe. You cringe because it's just not appropriate in my view to do that," he said. "They've got real issues to debate on this topic. Get to the real issues. Don't be dragging people's children into this. It's wrong."

In his Tuesday speech, LaPierre said Obama was among the "self-appointed arbiters of what freedom really means."

"He doesn't understand you. He doesn't agree with the freedoms you cherish. If the only way he can force you to give 'em up is through scorn and ridicule, he's more than willing to do it, even as he claims the moral high ground."

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