Wayne LaPierre, the CEO of the National Rifle Association, earlier this month singled out and criticized Senator Chris Murphy, D-Conn. for calling on Congress to tighten the regulations on firearms while the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, was taking place.

LaPierre, speaking at the 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference on Feb. 22, accused Murphy, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi and others of “exploiting tragedy for personal gain.”

“They hate the NRA. They hate the Second Amendment. They hate individual freedom,” LaPierre said. “If they truly cared [about America’s schoolchildren] they would protect them. For them, it is not a safety issue. It is a political issue.”

In an email to the News, Murphy — an outspoken gun control advocate who became particularly vocal in the aftermath of the 2012 shooting in Newtown — rejected the NRA’s statement as baseless, and stood by his past work on gun control.

“I’m proud that the NRA notices the fact that I’ve been standing up to the gun industry to try to make our schools safer,” he said. “Nobody should listen to anybody who’s saying that the answer to gun violence is more guns.”

Jeremy Stein, the executive director of Connecticut Against Gun Violence, said he supports Murphy’s efforts at the national level, and those of the entire Connecticut congressional delegation.

Stein said that Murphy, along with the rest of Connecticut’s delegation, is doing a “fantastic” job pursuing “common-sense” gun laws. He emphasized Murphy’s record on gun reform, calling him a “champion of gun violence prevention.”

“This is not being opportunistic, this is being sensible,” he said. “This is being responsible.”

Stein accused the National Rifle Association of being the “real” opportunists because their agenda, he said, is to promote the sale of guns at any expense. He said gun control should not a partisan or political issue, calling those who are opposed to common-sense gun laws “extremists.”

A national Quinnipiac University poll conducted on Feb. 20, six days after the shooting in Florida, found that voters favored stricter gun laws 66 percent to 31 percent. Among gun owners, that figure was 50 percent to 44 percent, according to the poll.

Still, Scott Wilson, the president of the Connecticut Citizens’ Defense League, said he agrees with Wayne LaPierre’s comments.

“I think that Wayne LaPierre is right, but this is nothing new for Chris Murphy,” Wilson said. “He’s been politicizing guns and gun control since I can remember. We’re moving away from freedom and liberty and we’re moving towards tyranny.”

Wilson said the state’s congressional delegation should not focus on increasing gun control, and added that Murphy’s emphasis on the issue was for the “cameras” and fundraising, rather than for real legislative change. The issue of gun control, he said, has distracted America from other, more important ways to prevent shootings, such as watching and addressing the early signs that someone may become a shooter.

The first federal gun control law was passed in 1934.

Keshav Raghavan | keshav.raghavan@yale.edu