The audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference was on its feet cheering for Wayne LaPierre, the face of the National Rifle Association who has been almost universally vilified for refusing to back gun control in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.

LaPierre, who in the weeks following the December shooting called for armed guards in schools, ridiculed as "sheer madness" the Obama administration's and Democrats' attempts to ban assault weapons and require universal background checks that he said would do nothing to reduce gun violence.

"If we dare disagree they'll scorn us and demonize us and they will try to shut us up," LaPierre said. "We will not be demonized and we will not be silenced. It's time for us to take a sane look at the insanity that has consumed all too much of the media and the political class in this town."

A Democratically led Senate panel on Thursday approved a bill that would eliminate many assault-style weapons, reduce the size of ammunition clips and require everyone who purchases a gun to pass a background check. While the bill has virtually no chance of passing either the House or the Senate, it is the most aggressive attempt by Congress in years to install stricter gun control laws.

Senate Republicans are working with Democrats on a bill that would create an expanded background check system, but the NRA and other pro-gun groups and lawmakers oppose such checks.

"In the end, there are only two reason for the government to create that registry of gun owners," LaPierre said. "To tax them, or to take them. No rational thinking American thinks that will have any effect on violent criminals."

LaPierre called on the CPAC crowd to fight these legislative attempts.

"This is a fight for our freedom," LaPierre said.

He ridiculed the Obama administration for suggesting ways for people to defend themselves if faced with someone carrying a gun. The Homeland Security department recommends grabbing scissors, LaPierre said, while Vice President Joe Biden suggested a woman facing a home invasion should grab a shotgun and empty it into the air.

"It doesn't make any sense," LaPierre said. "No doubt a violent predator would love to face a women with a shotgun that is empty."

Audience members loved it.

"He hit it spot on," said Cody Baughman, 19, a gun owner from Missouri.

Helen Krieble, 70, of Parker, Colo., described herself as a proud gun owner who is stocking up on ammunition as the government begins to debate new gun restrictions.

LaPierre's recent battering from Democrats "is a badge of honor, Krieble said. "He stands for American values, which are not popular with the political elite."