The head of the National Rifle Association came out swinging Thursday against a wave of gun-control legislation proposed in the wake of the Tucson shooting, saying that government policies and media sensationalism -- rather than lax gun laws -- were to blame for the tragedy.
"If Tucson told us anything, it told us this: government failed," Wayne LaPierre said in a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference, as quoted at The Hill.
LaPierre argued guns laws offer more protection to killers than to their victims, and criticized "gun-free zones and anti-self defense laws that protected the safety of no one except the killers and condemned the victims to death without so much as a prayer," CBS reported.
He had particularly tough words for a proposal to ban high-capacity ammunition clips, such as the ones accused Tucson shooter Jared Loughner allegedly used to fire 31 shots in a matter of seconds on Jan. 8, hitting 19 people, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and killing six, including a nine-year-old girl.
"These clowns want to ban magazines," LaPierre said. "Are you kidding me? But that's their response to the blizzard of violence and mayhem affecting our nation. One more gun law on top of all of the laws already on the books."
The Arizona state legislature this month began debating a bill that would ban ammunition clips that hold more than 10 rounds. Among its backers is Kelly O'Brien, the fiancee of Gabe Zimmerman, an aide to Rep. Giffords.
"Extended magazine clips are currently an easily accessible weapon for troubled individuals to use in mass murder," O'Brien said Tuesday. "That is what happened on Jan. 8, and that is how Gabe was killed. This must not be allowed to happen again."
LaPierre argued the law would not stop violence.
"When they tell you that a government ban on certain guns or magazines will stop violence, don't you buy it, not for one second," he said.
LaPierre also suggested that the media was partly to blame for tragedies such as Tucson because its coverage of shooting tragedies breeds copycats.
The media "turns a madman into a hero for every potential deranged copycat out there," he said, as quoted at CBS. "It's sick, it's wrong and the media out to be ashamed of themselves."
A number of gun-control proposals were put forward in Washington and Arizona following the Jan. 8 shooting, and the Obama administration indicated it would support some sort of legislative reaction. But in the weeks since, momentum for gun control has fizzled, and top Democrats have played down the prospects of passing legislation.