National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre linked the April 15 Boston bombings with the ongoing struggle over gun laws in America on Saturday, asking the audience at the annual NRA convention in Houston, "How many Bostonians wish they had a gun two weeks ago?"
"Imagine living in a large metropolitan area where lawful firearms ownership is heavily regulated and discouraged," LaPierre said. "Imagine waking up to a phone call from the police, warning that a terrorist event is occurring outside and ordering you to stay inside your home."
"I'm talking, of course, about Boston, where residents were imprisoned behind the locked doors of their homes, a terrorist with bombs and guns just outside," he said. "Frightened citizens, sheltered in place, with no means to defend themselves or their families from whatever may come crashing through the door."
"How many Bostonians wished they had a gun two weeks ago?" he asked. "How many other Americans now ponder that life-or-death question?"
LaPierre, perhaps the most aggressive public face of an organization that has determinedly fought efforts by President Obama and Congress to strengthen gun laws in America, reiterated his belief that "the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."
"Boston proves it," he said. "When brave law enforcement officers did their jobs so courageously, good guys with guns stopped terrorists with guns."
LaPierre said the administration and "Washington elites" are interested only in "demonizing law-abiding gun owners," accusing them of exploiting tragedy "by choice, for political gain."
LaPierre has previously drawn the ire of gun-control opponents for his provocative rhetoric. Mark Kelly, the husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who was shot in the head and nearly killed during a 2011 shooting in Tucson, Ariz., wrote an op-ed for the Houston Chronicle prior to the NRA's convention. In it, he called for a "new generation of leaders within the NRA," arguing that LaPierre and other leaders within the gun-rights organization had abandoned the interests of their members to instead defend the profit margins of the gun industry - all while enriching themselves.
Kelly, also the head of Americans for Responsible Solutions, an organization seeking to reduce gun violence, wrote, "The NRA used to be a great organization." But now, Kelly argued, "The NRA leadership's top priority is to make sure the corporations that make guns and ammunition continue to turn huge profits."
Citing LaPierre's $1 million annual salary, Kelly argued that the NRA "turned their backs on the very safety measures, like background checks, that the organization used to stand for - in exchange for cold, hard cash."
In April, the Senate, at the urging of the NRA, voted down a proposal that would have expanded background checks for gun buyers.
"It seems to me that the time is right for a new generation of leaders within the NRA," Kelly wrote.