The chief executive of the National Rifle Association said gun control advocates “hate individual freedom”, before Donald Trump told Florida officials he is the “biggest believer in the second amendment”.
Wayne LaPierre slammed critics of the gun lobby and accused them of exploiting last week’s school shooting in Florida for political advantage.
He called it a “shameful politicisation of tragedy” as he expressed his unwavering defence of gun ownership.
Just hours later, Mr Trump told a group of Florida officials he was a big believer in the second amendment, the right to bear arms, and was speaking regularly with the NRA, from whom he enjoys “tremendous support”.
The President met Florida attorney general Pam Bondi, Indiana attorney general Curtis Hill and Parkland mayor Christine Hunschofsky at the White House.
He told them he wants to see trained teachers, who could be paid bonuses, carry concealed weapons to ward off potential gunmen in schools.
Before the hour-long meeting, he said he was keen to discuss violence in movies, reopening mental health institutions and raising the age limit on buying guns to 21.
Ms Bondi said Florida would bring in a system of gun violence restraining orders so law enforcement officers can take away guns of people in custody for mental health reasons.
In a tweet after the meeting, Mr Trump said: “There is nothing more important than protecting our children. They deserve to be safe, and we will deliver!”
The discussion at the White House came after the NRA’s Mr LaPierre made his first comments since the Florida massacre.
He told the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC): “It’s a classic strategy right out of the playbook of a poisonous movement…for them it’s not a safety issue, it’s a political issue.”
Today, it was my great honor to host a School Safety Roundtable at the @WhiteHouse with State and local leaders, law enforcement officers, and education officials.
There is nothing more important than protecting our children. They deserve to be safe, and we will deliver! pic.twitter.com/WhC2AxgWXO
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 22, 2018
He pointed the finger at the Democrats, saying their anti-gun rhetoric sought to undermine the constitutional right to bear arms.
“They hate the NRA,” he said. “They hate the Second Amendment. They hate individual freedom.”
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 shootings, he said.
Appearing to throw his weight behind Mr Trump’s suggestion that teachers should be able to defend themselves and their pupils in such an event, he said: “We must immediately harden our schools.”
“Every day, young children are being dropped off at schools that are virtually wide open, soft targets for anyone bent on mass murder.”
Mr LaPierre echoed his words from 2012 following the Sandy Hook tragedy, saying: “Lean in, listen to me now, and never forget these words: to stop a bad guy with a gun, it takes a good guy with a gun.”
Vice President Mike Pence also took the stage to call the Florida massacre “evil in our time”.
What many people don’t understand, or don’t want to understand, is that Wayne, Chris and the folks who work so hard at the @NRA are Great People and Great American Patriots. They love our Country and will do the right thing. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 22 February 2018
He said the Trump administration would make school safety “our top national priority”, calling for those in positions of authority “to find a way to come together with American solutions.”
Mr Pence also praised the President’s meeting with the survivors and parents of shooting victims at the White House on Wednesday.
He said the nation had become “disconnected” and that Mr Trump met and listened to people with a “spirit of humility”.