GOP Senate hopeful Corey Stewart: ‘They’re exploiting tragedies’

ROANOKE, Va. -- As thousands amassed in the nation’s capital and in cities across the country for March for Our Lives events Saturday, some Virginia politicians defended gun rights.

Republican Senate candidate hopeful Corey Stewart spoke to supporters at a Second Amendment rally in Roanoke.

Stewart said he was tired of gun rights supporters being portrayed as if they don't care about children.

“They are exploiting these tragedies. They are exploiting these families. They are exploiting the deaths of these young people to try to push their left-wing, gun-grabbing ideology to try to disarm Americans, law-abiding Americans,” Stewart said to a group of supporters.

Stewart told supporters the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun. In addition, he said armed resource officers should be in all the nation's schools.

Culpeper Delegate and fellow Republican Senate candidate Nick Freitas posted his rally response on Twitter.

“Instead of marching to infringe on Second Amendment rights or rallying against the First Amendment which protects our freedoms of expression, let`s talk solutions. Yes, change needs to happen but it doesn`t start with infringing on our Constitutional rights.”

The primary vote on June 12 will decide which of the five candidates running will be the GOP nominee.

Virginia Citizens Defense League President Philip Van Cleave also responded to the march saying he does not believe gun control measures would prevent mass shootings.

“Keeping schools as gun-free zones only encourages attacks such as the one in Florida," Van Cleave said in a statement. "A few days ago an armed resource officer in a Maryland school quickly stopped an attack by a student. Deterrence is one part of a solution to school mass-murders, which can be accomplished for free by allowing those with concealed handgun permits to carry concealed on school grounds, as is done in Utah and other states."

NRA response to March for Our Lives:

To hear the National Rifle Association tell it, Saturday's March for Our Lives was orchestrated by billionaires and Hollywood to push an anti-gun agenda.

On Facebook Saturday morning, the NRA posted a short membership-drive video along with a brief message.

"Stand and Fight for our Kids' Safety by Joining NRA," it said. "Today's protests aren't spontaneous. Gun-hating billionaires and Hollywood elites are manipulating and exploiting children as part of their plan to DESTROY the Second Amendment and strip us of our right to defend ourselves and our loved ones."

On Thursday evening, NRA TV posted a clip on its YouTube channel entitled "A march for their lies" where the host addressed the Parkland students and said that if their friends hadn't died, "no one would know your names."
"To all the kids from Parkland getting ready to use your First Amendment to attack everyone else's Second Amendment at your march on Saturday, I wish a hero like Blaine had been at Marjory Douglas High School last month," Colion Noir said. "Because your classmates would still be alive and no one would know your names. And because the media would have completely and utterly ignored your story the way they ignored his."

He was referring to Blaine Gaskill, the school resource officer who was instrumental in bringing a school shooting to a quick end at Great Mills High School in Maryland on Tuesday.

Gaskill's story was widely reported in the media.

During the march Saturday, the NRA was conspicuously silent on Twitter.

As of mid-afternoon on the East Coast, when most of the marches were over, the National Rifle Association had yet to post a single tweet -- about the marches or anything else.

In fact, the NRA didn't tweet the entire day.

It was a notable contrast from March 14, the day students across the country walked out of school to demand action on gun violence. On that day, the NRA tweeted 13 times -- including one that contained an image of an AR-style rifle along with the message, "I'll control my own guns, thank you."

The organization wields substantial influence in Congress and has been cited by gun control activists as a chief roadblock to gun law reform.

The CNN Wire contributed to this report.