Gun enthusiast offers shock and awe in Durango speech

Larry Pratt, head of Gun Owners of America, packed the Durango Community Recreation Center with his provocative rejection of all gun-control measures recently proposed in Congress. Enlargephoto

Josh Stephenson/Durango Herald

Larry Pratt, head of Gun Owners of America, packed the Durango Community Recreation Center with his provocative rejection of all gun-control measures recently proposed in Congress.

On Wednesday, about 90 people gathered to hear Larry Pratt, the controversial head of the Gun Owners of America – an organization that falls to the right of the National Rifle Association – speak at the Durango Community Recreation Center.

Though in Durango to support the recall effort aimed at state Rep. Mike McLachlan, in the end, the speech barely touched on the state representative. (While attendees were invited to sign the recall petition at the back of the room, in Pratt's hands, GOP House Speaker John Boehner fared a lot worse than McLachlan.)

Instead, Pratt – a charismatic speaker – gave a wide-ranging speech, one that mixed mainstream GOP talking points with the fringe positions and the inflammatory assertions for which he is famous.Though at the end of the speech, Pratt received a standing ovation, the crowd was a mix of hard-right gun advocates, committed liberal activists and people eager to rubberneck what they anticipated would be the equivalent of an entertaining bar brawl.After thanking the protesters who greeted him outside the rec center, Pratt warmed up with an affable revisionist history of the United States that strongly emphasized some aspects of the Constitution and singled out Vice President Joe Biden as one of its "ruling-class" desecrators.But he quickly seized on recent mass shootings.The shootings in Aurora, he said, showed there should be no gun-free schools, as the killer James Holmes selected the Century 16 multiplex in the Town Center at Aurora shopping mall for his shooting spree because it didn't allow firearms, whereas surrounding movie theaters did.Pratt said gun advocates had to ask, "Why are they continuing the anti-gun tirade now, since Newtown?" referring to the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, when gun-control advocates, Pratt said, had given up pretty quickly after Columbine. "Clearly, they're not going to give up until they've got our guns," he said.At one point, Pratt, decrying the arrogance of all elected officials except perhaps sheriffs, asked why President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder should be in a position to regulate firearms when they were "murderers," asserting that they were involved in killing 400 Mexicans in Operation Fast and Furious.

Though European countries, which tend to have tougher gun-control laws, came under a lot of criticism – especially the United Kingdom, Pratt heaped praise on Switzerland, which mandates all men between 21 and 30 in the conscripted militia have a gun.

The policy, he said, was wise, saying Hitler's government, "couldn't figure out a way to invade Switzerland without losing half the army. So they never invaded Switzerland."

Switzerland, he later acknowledged, was neutral during World War II.

Though Switzerland remains neutral in every conflict, Pratt hailed Swiss marksmanship, saying, "Don't mess with Switzerland!"Pratt dismissed the slew of recent polls that show a majority of Americans strongly support universal background checks, with a recent CBS News/New York Times poll finding that 89 percent of Republicans and 93 percent of Democrats and independents were in favor, as well as 85 percent of those living in a household with a member of the NRA.Pratt didn't criticize the poll's methodology, but based on his organization's internal polling, which show only 4 percent favoring universal background checks, the national polls didn't ring true.
Larry Pratt begins speaking about 15 minutes into this recording of the live streaming offered at durangoherald.com.

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