WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/CBS News/AP) — Appearing on “Face the Nation” Sunday, National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre blamed a “politically correct” federal government for the fact that the Orlando nightclub massacre gunman was taken off an FBI watch list.
He also said Americans need to be able to protect themselves because terrorists are “trying to kill us.”
A total of 49 people were killed, and 53 were injured, when Mateen opened fire at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando a week ago Sunday. Mateen was ultimately killed in a shootout with police.
Speaking to John Dickerson on “Face the Nation,” LaPierre said the White House had handled the massacre the wrong way.
“We face a terrorist challenge where they’re on the verge of overwhelming us,” LaPierre said. “What happened this week is the president, the whole gun ban movement, said, ‘Don’t look at the terrorists, look over here.’”
He argued that the Obama administration does not want to “face the embarrassment” of its handling of terrorism, and “they want to cover their butts and not talk about it.”
“It’s all being politicized with the politically correct White House nose and fingers in areas they don’t belong,” he said.
Mateen, was added to a government watch list of individuals known or suspected of being involved in terrorist activities in 2013, when he was investigated for inflammatory statements to co-workers. But he was pulled from that database when that investigation was closed 10 months later.
LaPierre said the NRA was not to blame for the fact that Mateen was taken off the watch list. He said the federal government made that decision, “largely because of some of these politically correct policies that I talked about earlier.”
LaPierre said the solution to keeping guns out of the hands of terrorists is a bill proposed by U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), which would let the government delay firearms sales to suspected terrorists for up to 72 hours. Prosecutors would have to persuade a judge to block the transaction permanently.
But he said tighter gun laws would not make any difference to terrorists who “don’t care about the law.”
“These guys we’re facing, they don’t say, ‘Oh gosh, they passed a law, oh gosh, I don’t think I can do it,’” LaPierre said. “What we’re doing with this debate on the Hill right now, it’s like they’re trying to stop a freight train with a piece of Kleenex.”
LaPierre broke with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on the issue of concealed carry in clubs like Pulse, where the shooting occurred last weekend. Unlike Trump, LaPierre said he does not believe people should carry guns in drinking establishments.
“I don’t think you should have firearms where people are drinking,” he said. “But I’ll tell you this: everybody, every American needs to start having a security plan, we need to be able to protect ourselves, because they’re coming.”
Still, he praised Trump, who the NRA endorsed back in May.
“You know, Donald Trump, as far as I know, he wants to attack criminals, he wants to protect the law-abiding, and he wants to attack ISIS and get the bad guys,” he said. “And that’s where we are.”
Also appearing on “Face the Nation” Sunday was U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California), who has proposed a bill that would let the government bar sales of guns and explosives to people it suspects of being terrorists.
Feinstein offered the amendment in December, a day after an extremist couple killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California, but the Republican-run Senate rejected the proposal on a near party-line vote.
Feinstein said “weapons of war” such as the one Mateen used “don’t belong on the street. She further said 82 percent of the American people want the U.S. Attorney General’s office to have the right to stop gun sales.
Last week, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut) waged a nearly 15-hour filibuster on gun control.
He yielded the floor once he said he had won commitments from Republican leaders to hold votes on amendments to expand background checks for firearms sold at gun shows and online retailers, as well as ban gun sales to suspected terrorists.
Murphy had been seeking a vote on Feinstein’s proposed legislation.
The Senate will hold votes on gun control proposals on Monday.
(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)