WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) -- The head of the National Rifle Association spoke to conservatives Thursday as his organization faces heavy criticism from student activists in the wake of last week's deadly school shooting in Florida.
NRA Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre spoke about the shooting at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
"We share a goal of safe schools," he said.
He said Democrats like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy are eager to blame the NRA and are calling "for even more government control."
LaPierre said opponents of gun rights want to "sweep under the carpet" the failure of school safety, families "and even the unbelievable failure of the FBI" to prevent the shootings.
LaPierre also singled out several Tri-State Area lawmakers, among others, calling them "European-style socialists bearing down upon us."
"I'm not just talking about Bernie Sanders, I mean, he's near the end of his career. But how about Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Bill de Blasio, Andrew Cuomo, Cory Booker, Christopher Murphy and Keith Ellison," he said. The audience responded with a chorus of boos. "They are not Democrats in the mold of John F. Kennedy or Tip O'Neill. They hide behind labels like 'Democrat,' 'Left-Wing' and 'Progressive' to make their socialist agenda more palatable, and that is terrifying. And that should terrify every citizen who values the American ideal in this country of individual liberty."
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo immediately hit back at LaPierre and his NRA colleagues.
"As a father and a gun owner, I think it would be nice if the NRA listened to the millions of children across this country who are asking the president and the GOP Congress to stop this senseless gun violence. Too many lives have already been lost because the NRA and people like Wayne LaPierre want to sell more guns," Cuomo said in a statement. "While the NRA is busy peddling lies to the American people, New York and a coalition of states are saying enough is enough. The American people won't be played for fools. There is a way to pass common sense gun safety legislation—we know because we did it in New York. It isn't either/or -- it can and must be both.
"If Wayne LaPierre is attacking you, you know you're doing something right. I am proud of my 'F' rating from the NRA, and I will continue to do everything I can to keep New Yorkers and our children safe," Cuomo added.
NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch also spoke and called out news coverage of the Florida shooting.
"Many in the legacy media love mass shootings," she said. "I'm not saying you love the tragedy, but you love the ratings."
President Donald Trump tweeted his support for the NRA leadership Thursday, calling them "great people and great American patriots." He said they will "do the right thing."
On Wednesday, teen survivors and others rallied for tougher gun laws and told lawmakers things will change when they are able to vote.
"No longer can you take money from the NRA," said student Delaney Tarr. "Because we are coming after you."
Many CPAC participants agree with the NRA's message, but they're interested in other pressing issues, like the Russia investigation and the upcoming midterm elections.
"The opposite side usually wins, so to pull this off for Republicans is actually a difficult thing to do," said participant Martin O'Sullivan.
The president speaks at CPAC on Friday.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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