National Rifle Association leader Wayne LaPierre on Friday rebuffed Michael Bloomberg's $50 million initiative to counter the influential gun lobby, saying the clout of the group's 5 million members can counter the impressive resources the former mayor will devote to the issue.
"This guy thinks he can scare us into running from a fight to protect our rights and our freedoms," an NRA member says in a new ad that LaPierre showed during the group's annual convention. "He's one guy with millions; we're millions with our 25 bucks. Let's see who crushes who."
Earlier this month, the former New York City mayor pledged $50 million to build a grassroots network to counter the NRA and expand background checks. The newly formed group hopes to play an active role in the upcoming 2014 midterm elections.
To coincide with the confab in Indianapolis, Ind., the Bloomberg-backed group Everytown for Gun Safety released its own ad featuring the families of gun violence and survivors of firearm attacks reading the words of LaPierre and other pro-gun lobbyists while showing photos of their lost loved ones or scars.
Though LaPierre sought to portray the NRA as the little guy standing up to a mega-wealthy outside influencer, the fact remains the pro-gun group is hauling in much more than the $50 million Bloomberg has pledged toward the issue. The NRA rakes in well over $200 million each year and is one of the most influential organization's in American politics.
The group's influence has increased amongst Republicans in recent years as outside groups have advocated for stricter gun control following the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut. LaPierre has touted the group’s success in halting legislative efforts to expand background checks, ban assault weapons and ban high-capacity magazines failed in Congress nearly one year ago.
Still, at the opening of the leadership conference, Bloomberg, along with the national media, was the group's top target. NRA chief lobbyist Chris Cox called Bloomberg an "arrogant hypocrite" as the crowd booed.
"Stay the hell out of our gun cabinets because this freedom is not for sale," Cox said.
Several potential 2016 presidential contenders are also courting the gun lobby group, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.
Rubio contended the national media and gun control advocates have used recent tragedies to push an anti-gun agenda.
“Meanwhile these anti-gun zealots use these tragedies to further their agenda, we neglect to pursue the thing that would actually make our people safer,” Rubio said.
The GOP speakers argued that the right to bear arms is the most important of many rights that have come under attack under President Barack Obama’s administration.
“The NRA can not only save the Second Amendment,” Santorum said. “You can save America.”