LaPierre Address To Members
Good morning, and thank you for coming today.
Because of recent events, we've experienced unprecedented requests
for our Association to express itself on a variety of related and
unrelated issues. Out of solemn respect, we have remained silent.
But the policies of the National Rifle Association have become so
widely mis-characterized that America can't keep in focus a clear
understanding of what our principles are.
So I would like to take this opportunity to clearly state our positions
in a comprehensive way.
More than anything, I want to frame my remarks as part of a constructive,
respectfully-conducted discourse that will surely follow in the weeks
I wouldn't stand before you today if I didn't believe, and I couldn't
prove, that our common-sense policies can have a more immediate impact
on violence, and make more citizens safer, than anything that anyone
else is proposing.
So I'd like to speak in response to the President's recent press conferences
and news appearances. And please, listen not just for what we've done,
but for what more we can all do.
First, we believe in absolutely gun-free, zero-tolerance, totally
safe schools. That means no guns in America's schools, period ...
with the rare exception of law enforcement officers or trained security
We believe America's schools should be as safe as America's airports.
You can't talk about, much less take, bombs and guns onto airplanes.Such
behavior in our schools should be prosecuted just as certainly as
such behavior in our airports is prosecuted.
Of the 6,000 young people the President acknowledges were caught with
a gun at school during the past two years, we believe all of them
should have been prosecuted. But the truth is that only
5 were prosecuted in 1997 and just 8 in 1998. That's not zero tolerance.
The National Rifle Association believes in no unsupervised youth access
to guns, period. We have always supported holding adults responsible
for wilfully and recklessly allowing access to firearms.
Just as every kid should have a guardian who knows where he is and
keeps him safe, every firearm should have a guardian who knows where
it is and keeps it safely stored.
That's why, for over a century, we've written the book on safe storage
of firearms. We support and encourage the distribution, development
and use of safety locks, trigger locks, gun safes, or any voluntary
means necessary and appropriate to keep firearms away from, or inoperable
by, those who shouldn't have them. We have always condemned anything
But we believe that the most effective gun safety device is education.
And the NRA does more about it than anybody, investing millions of
dollars in our Eddie Eagle gun avoidance safety program that has now
reached eleven million children. Even President Clinton agrees it
has been effective.
Fatal gun accident rates are now lower than ever in American history.
And if any American school wants the program, we'll find a way for
that school to have it -- with or without NRA's name on it. But we
call on the President and Congress to provide funding to put the Eddie
Eagle program in every elementary classroom.
Still, we believe the real problem is unprosecuted criminal access
So we believe in zero tolerance for anyone illegally buying guns for
We encourage the vigilance of everyone to keep illegal guns out of
the hands of minors. But more importantly, of the thousands of criminals
who bought guns for juveniles, we believe the Clinton Administration
should have prosecuted more than just 5 in 1997 and 6 in 1998. That's
not zero tolerance.
We believe gang bangers caught carrying guns shouldn't be let go just
because they're under 18.
So we support mandatory penalties for juvenile criminals caught carrying
guns. But out of the thousands of these armed teen thugs, we believe
the Clinton Justice Department should have prosecuted more than just
3 in 1997 and 8 in 1998. That's not zero tolerance.
We believe that even if violent juvenile felons get a second chance
at going straight, they should never get a second chance at owning
a gun. Some call it Juvenile Brady -- we call it common sense. We
support barring all juveniles convicted of violent felonies from owning
guns, for life.
We also believe that criminal records of violent juveniles ought to
remain open indefinitely, not expunged in the middle of their crime
spree. They shouldn't get a clean criminal slate to splatter with
blood again just because they turn 18 or 21.
We support restoring full and perpetual funding for the National Instant
Check System, which was the product of this Association's determined
effort. It is a federal crime for a felon to try to buy a gun. So
for the quarter million prohibited buyers President Clinton claims
were turned away, we believe his Justice Department should have prosecuted
more than zero in 1996, zero in 1997 and zero in 1998. That's surely
not zero tolerance.
We believe that people adjudicated mentally incompetent should be
prevented from buying guns. That's the law. But it can't be enforced
because those records are often sealed. So we advocate that records
of court-declared mental incompetents be unsealed and made available
to the instant check system. Believe it or not, insanities like John
Hinckley's would not prevent a gun purchase today because most mental
records are invisible to the instant check system. Let's close the
We believe that a lawful, properly-permitted citizen who chooses to
carry a concealed firearm not only deserves that right, but is a deterrent
to crime. We support the right to carry because it has helped cut
crime rates in all 31 states that have adopted it ... with almost
no abuse of any kind by the lawful citizens who took the courses,
submitted to the background checks, passed the tests and became part
of a proud citizens movement that's making America a safer place to
live. The truth is, very few actually choose to carry a gun -- but
the bad guys don't know which few they are.
We believe freedom should never be diminished for those who abide
by the law. On the contrary, freedom should be diminished only for
those who break the law. That is the principle upon which we stand
opposed to waiting period proposals and one-gun-a-month schemes.
There is no evidence waiting periods work. And if there is authority
to say one gun a month, there will eventually be authority to say
We believe it is felons who should get no guns any month. So of the
thousands of criminals who bought guns for felons, we believe the
Clinton Justice Department should have prosecuted more than just 13
in 1997 and 24 in 1998. That's not zero tolerance.
The National Rifle Association has never agreed that magazine capacity
has any relationship to the criminal misuse of firearms. We cannot
support pointless initiatives. It's as useless as trying to restrict
the number of guns a criminal can carry, or the number of loaded magazines
he can pack, or for that matter, the number of pockets he can lug
his bullets in -- when chances are, he should be wearing prison fatigues
in the first place.
We support reversing the Clinton Administration policy of not prosecuting
felons with guns. We advocate national adoption of Project Exile,
a zero-tolerance project that began in Richmond, Virginia, but can't
seem to get the support of President Clinton's Justice Department.
Any felon caught with a gun, no matter what he's doing, goes to jail
for 5 years, period.
District Attorneys tell me they've never seen a program have such
an immediate effect on violence. So instead of not funding Project
Exile, we call on the President to support providing 50 million dollars
for nationwide implementation plus 25 million dollars to publicize
awareness of it.
Finally, we believe that firearm freedom can't exist if firearms aren't
as affordable as the free market allows. So we condemn the attempt
of predatory lawyers and mayors to drive gun makers out of business
and drive up costs of guns with frivolous lawsuits that make honest
people pay for the failure of the criminal justice system.
Americans oppose it, and we support state and federal legislation
that prohibits this abuse of the courts and our freedoms.
Incredibly, we've been asked if we would support an instant check
on explosives purchasers.Well, we're not the National Explosives Association.
But we would not oppose such a background check, as long as it does
not include the traditional reloading powders used by millions of
budget minded hobbyists. Trying to include those reloading powders
is like imposing an instant check on matches, because they're made
of basically the same stuff.
Lastly, I want to talk about gun shows.We have always supported the
American tradition and right of private sales of firearms between
lawful adults, friends and family. Gun shows are simply an extension
of that freedom. But the NRA insists on absolute adherence to the
law, with zero tolerance for any unscrupulous or illegal activity
at gun shows, just like anywhere else.
We will consider instant checks at gun shows when, and only when,
this Administration stops demanding new gun taxes and stops illegally
compiling the records of millions of lawful gun buyers. Government
list-keeping surveillance of law-abiding citizens is never a good
That's where we stand on these issues, and why. The solutions are
far more a matter of collective resolve, than of resources. If we
have twelve billion dollars to fight violence overseas, surely we
can find a few million to defeat violence at home.
It's my hope that the cruel and unfounded accusations against this
association can be replaced by a civil and constructive debate. As
discussions continue in the weeks ahead, we will take our responsible
place at any gathering that seeks meaningful solutions as long as
they do not erode, not even a little, the freedoms this Association
exists to preserve.
Thank you for your attention in these most trying of times. The policies
of the National Rifle Association have always been, and will always
be, totally invested in preserving the safety and the freedoms of
To The Transcript Index
1999 National Rifle Association