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Widow of "American Sniper" speaks at NRA convention

May 03, 2013|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske
  • Taya Kyle, widow of slain former military sniper and author Chris Kyle, makes an emotional plea for gun rights at the National Rifle Assn. annual convention.
Taya Kyle, widow of slain former military sniper and author Chris Kyle,… (Steve Ueckert / Associated…)

HOUSTON -- The widow of slain former military sniper Chris Kyle made a surprise appearance at the annual National Rifle Assn. convention on Friday, addressing a packed auditorium of hundreds.

Taya Kyle, 38, a slim figure with long brown hair, appeared in a checked sheath dress, her husband’s dog tags dangling from her neck.

As a photo slide show of her late husband flashed on massive screens behind her, Kyle described his background: how his father taught him to shoot in North Texas when he was 8 years old,  how he grew up to become not just a cowboy, but a good-looking one.

The moment she said it, Kyle started to choke up.

“Sorry,” she said, indicating a small screen. “The picture’s in front of me too.”

Chris Kyle gained fame as the author of "American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History" -- an account of his four tours in Iraq, where he said he killed at least 160 insurgents.

Kyle, 38, and friend Chad Littlefield, 35, were shot to death by a fellow Iraq veteran on Feb. 2, police have said. The pair had taken Eddie Ray Routh, a 25-year-old Marine reservist, to the gun range that day as a sort of therapy after Routh had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

His wife did not mention Routh by name. But she alluded to her husband's death and implied it should not be cause for added gun restrictions.

“I challenge anyone to tell me there isn’t evil in this world. From the days of Cain and Abel, we know all too well there will always be evil, but that evil shouldn’t take away our freedoms. In fact, the only way to take away evil is by taking advantage of those freedoms,” she said. “America needs people like you who are willing to stand up and fight.”

As photos played across the screen of Kyle kissing his two young children, she became teary again. Some in the audience bowed their heads and wiped their eyes.

Kyle said that before her husband died, he was working on a book that she has finished and plans to publish next month, “American Gun,” which tells the story of 10 historic guns and the people who used them.

“Thank you for understanding the difference between the use of guns in terrorizing innocent people in our country and abroad and the use of guns in fighting an evil that will not be reasoned with,” she said in closing, drawing loud applause and a standing ovation.

More than 70,000 people from across the country and abroad are expected to attend the three-day NRA convention in downtown Houston. Among them are rocker and NRA ally Ted Nugent and myriad political figures, including former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and the state's new senator, Ted Cruz.

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molly.hennessy-fiske@latimes.com

Twitter: @mollyhf

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