CPAC: VP Pence says school safety 'top national priority'

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WASHINGTON (AP) — 11:06 a.m.

Vice President Mike Pence says the Trump administration will make school safety "our top national priority" after last week's attack on a high school in Parkland, Florida.

Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Pence recounted President Donald Trump's calls for strengthening the federal background check system for purchasing firearms and for regulating bump-stocks like those used in last year's Las Vegas massacre.

Calling school shootings "evil in our time," Pence called on those in positions of authority "to find a way to come together with American solutions."

It was a markedly different tone than that deployed on stage minutes earlier by NRA Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre, who delivered an unbowed defense of gun ownership and lashed out at Democrats — saying they are using the tragedy for "political gain."

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10:15 a.m.

Leaders of the National Rifle Association are accusing supporters of gun control of exploiting the mass school shooting in Florida to promote an anti-gun agenda.

NRA leader Wayne LaPierre spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference. He says Democrats like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy are eager to blame the NRA and are calling "for even more government control."

He says opponents of gun rights want to "sweep under the carpet" the failure of school safety, families "and even the unbelievable failure of the FBI" to prevent the shootings.

LaPierre and NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch are addressing conservatives at CPAC.

Loesch says many in the media "love mass shootings," adding, "crying white mothers are ratings gold."

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