The head of the National Rifle Association (NRA) warned Hillary Clinton on Thursday that she faces a long and bitter fight over gun control should she win the White House, declaring: “Bring it on.”

Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the powerful gun rights lobby group, launched a scathing attack on Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and the media, claiming that the NRA has helped protect millions of children by advocating armed guards at schools.

Clinton “has been clear about one thing – she hates the second amendment”, LaPierre told the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) near Washington. “She hates us and is coming after every bit of our freedom.”

He added: “Mrs Clinton, if you want to come after the NRA, if you want a fight over the God-given rights of America’s 100 million gun owners, if you want to turn this election into a bare-knuckled brawl for the survival of our constitutional freedom, bring it on. We aren’t going anywhere – and we aren’t hard to find.”

The controversial face of the gun lobby added: “Mrs Clinton, we are the millions of honest, decent citizens all over this country. We love our nation. We cherish our freedom. November, we’re bringing the fight to you. All of us have a common cause – our freedom and our future. We can and we must fight for it.”

Clinton has aligned herself with Obama on the issue, pledging to enforce comprehensive background checks, crack down on illegal gun traffickers, hold dealers and manufacturers accountable “when they endanger Americans” and keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and stalkers. Her husband, former president Bill Clinton, told a rally in Virginia last week that he defeated the NRA in Congress and she will emulate him by slashing gun violence deaths to a historic low.

LaPierre delivered a fiery speech, punctuated by video clips of himself, to an appreciative audience at the Gaylord Convention Center at the National Harbor in Maryland. He accused Bill Clinton of attacking lawful gun owners, insisting: “The president – who let federal prosecutions of gun crimes drop to near historic lows – seemed willing to tolerate a certain level of violence to further his political agenda.”

Recalling the shooting of 20 young children and six of their adult carers at Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut in 2012, LaPierre said the NRA was unfairly attacked and blamed. “I simply and honestly proposed that our schools, our children, should be protected at least as much as our jewellery stores or banks or stadiums, and maybe the Oscars in Hollywood the other night. The national news media savaged me. What parent wouldn’t feel safer dropping their kids off at school with a police car parked out front?

“The political and media elites set their hair on fire. Screaming and screeching, they called me just about every evil, nasty name in the book. But in state legislatures and school districts all over the country, the American people began implementing what I proposed, placing trained, armed security in their schools. They didn’t wait for the president or Congress to act. They took matters into their own hands to protect their children.”

He went on: “As a result, millions of our children go to school today, no longer the sitting ducks of the worst and most dangerous of all lies – gun-free zones. The news media, protected by their own armed security, will never admit it, but today, millions of children are safer for one reason: the NRA. The overwhelming majority of Americans agree with the simple truth that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. The politicians and the media be damned!”

Obama wept at the White House earlier this year as he recalled the children killed at Sandy Hook while announcing executive actions to enforce gun laws. But he has been consistently frustrated by Congress in his attempts to introduce more far-reaching reforms.

LaPierre accused the president of “attempting to advance his own political agenda” at a recent televised public forum that the NRA refused to attend. “We know a political coward when we see one,” he said. “President Obama will never debate me on guns. His knowledge of that issue couldn’t fill a thimble, and he knows it. I would clean his clock, and he knows it.

“So, he’ll keep hiding behind his podium in rigged appearances – like all the other truth-dodging politicians – and lecture us about what’s wrong with our rights while day by day, we grow more and more disgusted, enraged and determined to throw them all out.”

LaPierre did not mention Republican frontrunner Donald Trump by name but said the American people were asserting themselves and rejecting mainstream politicians. “This election year proves the rage of the American people to be real and powerful. Candidates, strategists and pundits are learning that telling it like it is brings success. Straight talk brings reward.”

LaPierre’s remarks were condemned by the Newtown Action Alliance, a gun control pressure group formed in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook killings. It’s chairperson, Po Murray, said: “Wayne LaPierre supported universal background checks until the NRA decided to pursue an extreme agenda of arming anyone, anywhere and everywhere. He will say and do anything to elect a president who will promote the gun lobby’s efforts to put guns everywhere in a greedy pursuit of corporate profits for the gun industry. His job is to fire up the NRA supporters with fear, lies and rhetoric.

“Currently, Hillary Clinton is the only presidential candidate who stands with the families and communities impacted by gun violence. She is pushing for sensible gun laws. Justice Antonin Scalia stated, ‘Like most rights, the right secured by the second amendment is not unlimited …’ and Connecticut passed the second strongest gun laws after the Sandy Hook tragedy.”

Murray added: “Meanwhile, the NRA is aggressively pursuing an agenda to put guns on campuses and allowing anyone to carry guns without permits. In an era of increased mass shootings, voters have a clear choice this November. We choose Hillary Clinton.”

Josh Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, said: “It’s the same populist, fear-mongering speech. It’s amazing to me that Wayne LaPierre has been making the same speech for 25 years. We have a complex problem of gun violence in America and the only come to the table with: ‘We need more freedom.’ It sounds more hollow every time he says it.”

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