SALT LAKE CITY — The political push for "universal background checks" on America's gun owners is neither universal nor reasonable, according to the chief executive officer of the National Rifle Association.
Instead, Wayne LaPierre blasted the idea as one of just many gun-control measures that threaten to strip the rights of law-abiding gun owners.
"We are now facing the single most devastating attack on the Second Amendment this country has ever seen," LaPierre told a crowd of more than 1,000 Saturday during a keynote speech at the 8th annual Hunting and Wildlife Conservation Expo at the Salt Palace.
LaPierre was greeted with an enthusiastic standing ovation from the crowd when he stepped on stage and chose the gathering of hunting enthusiasts as the platform to unveil the organization's new advertising campaign targeting gun-control initiatives surfacing in Washington.
"This so-called background check is aimed at one thing — registering your guns," he said. "When another tragic “opportunity” presents itself, that registry will be used to confiscate your guns....Imagine right now your name on a massive government list."
He did not make himself available to answer questions from reporters, nor did he provide any evidence that universal background checks would become a stepping stone to a registry leading to confiscation of weapons. He played to a receptive crowd, invoked the Second Amendment and left the hunting enthusiasts to ponder how protected an imagined gun registry would be.
"Think it’s secure? Well, WikiLeaks had no trouble tapping into secret government computers. China hacked into Pentagon computers."
He stressed that political opportunists bent on pushing their own agenda seized on the tragedy of the Newton, Conn., school shooting to launch an assault designed to trample on a right that lies at the heart of what the United States was founded on.
As an example, he said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, said she had her gun-ban legislation in her desk for a year, waiting for the right time to introduce it.
"Really? Waiting for an unspeakable act to occur so the American people could be persuaded to buy into her political agenda," he questioned. "It’s not about making our kids or our streets safer, it’s all about their decades-old agenda."
Feinstein's bill actually would not impact any legally owned gun of those attending LaPierre's speech because it would not be retroactive. It also would exempt 2,200 hunting and sporting weapons and would make exempt any gun manually operated by a bolt, pump, lever or slide action.
But Saturday's gathering was a time for emotion, not specifics.
LaPierre referenced the NRA's response to the Newton shootings, in which 20 elementary-age children and six adults were killed, calling a police officer or armed security officer in every school the way to protect children.
"There’s not a mom or dad that wouldn’t feel better when they dropped their kid off at school and saw a police car in the parking lot," he said. "There’s not a mom or dad in America that doesn’t want their children protected."
His comments remained unchallenged in the applause-filled Salt Palace.
But Isaac Holyhoak, with the Alliance for a Better Utah, said the NRA can characterize such things as universal background checks as gun-control, but it all boils down to public safety.
"Buying a gun should be at least as hard as getting a drivers license."