OXON HILL, Md. — The head of the National Rifle Association, speaking publicly on Thursday for the first time since last week’s deadly school shooting, defended gun ownership while criticizing the news media, Democrats and the FBI.
Wayne LaPierre, the NRA chief, delivered remarks to the annual Conservative Political Action Conference that offered an ardent defense of his organization and the Second Amendment as a new movement led by young people makes emotional pleas for gun control.
Mr. LaPierre said every member of his association mourned the loss of the 17 people who died in the shooting at a Parkland, Fla., high school.
“We share a goal of safe schools,” Mr. LaPierre said. He argued for enforcing existing gun laws and not rushing to enact new ones. Mr. LaPierre said Democrats wanted to eliminate the Second Amendment with more restrictions.
“What they want are more restrictions on the law-abiding,” Mr. LaPierre said. “Think about that, their solution is to make you, all of you, less free.” He said the solution to the problem of school shootings was to “harden schools” by adding more armed security officers.
It was not a new argument for the N.R.A. in the wake of a mass shooting that has reignited the debate on gun control. But this latest push comes as a pro-gun rights Republican who campaigned with the support of the powerful lobbying group is in the White House.
In a series of Twitter posts before Mr. LaPierre’s remarks, President Donald Trump advocated arming teachers who have received special training, which the NRA supports. But the president also proposed other measures, such as raising the minimum age to 21 for the purchase of assault rifles, a plan the NRA has already come out against.
Mr. LaPierre also criticized the “unbelievable failure of the FBI.” The bureau, by its own admission, did not follow protocol in pursuing a tip about the Parkland gunman.