The National Rifle Association called on Congress to place armed police officers at every school to shield children and teachers from “monsters” and the carnage of violence that took the lives of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary last week—a response denounced by gun control advocates.
During a highly scripted news conference in the nation’s capital, the NRA said that schools are defenseless in a culture that glorifies violence, in video games and in movies, and does not do enough to protect “the most beloved, innocent, and vulnerable members of the American family.”
“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” said the group’s chief executive officer, Wayne LaPierre.
“We as a society leave them utterly defenseless, and the monsters and predators of this world know it, and exploit it,” he said.
The group named former Representative Asa Hutchison, an Arkansas Republican, to head a National School Shield Emergency Response Program.
Connecticut Representative Chris Murphy, whose district includes Newtown, responded angrily to the NRA’s announcement.
He called it “the most revolting, tone-deaf statement” he’s heard.
“While Newtown continues the horrifying work of burying twenty children and six adults, the NRA has the gall to say that the solution to this problem is more, not fewer guns.
“The NRA has now made itself completely irrelevant to the national conversation about preventing gun violence, by saying that the answer to the tragedy in Newtown is to put more deadly semi-automatic assault weapons on the streets and into our schools.”
The NRA had mostly remained silent in the wake of last Friday’s shootings in Newtown, Conn., when Adam Lanza shot his mother at home, drove to the nearby elementary school and slaughtered 26 people, most of them children between the ages of 6 and 7, before killing himself.
The massacre was the latest gun-related incident to shake the country, provoking grief, outrage and a call for action—although it remains unclear what might transpire.
Democrats in Congress have called for tightening gun laws, including reinstating a now-lapsed ban on assault rifles, limiting the number of rounds that can be contained in gun clips, and widening background checks for gun sales.
Earlier this week, President Obama appointed Vice President Joe Biden to lead a multi-agency task force to draw up proposals that could be taken up by Congress as soon as January.
In a video publicly released this morning, the president acknowledged the public clamor for action. More than 400,000 people have added their names to a “We the People” petition in the wake of the tragedy in Newtown.
“We hear you,” the president says in the video.
The president said he believes the Second Amendment protects an individual right to own guns, saying “most gun owners in America are responsible.” But Obama said he would support legislation to reinstate the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004, limit the capacity of ammunition clips, and close the loopholes that allow gun sales at gun shows without background checks.
The NRA has called such measures wrong-headed and ineffective in preventing evil-minded people intent on doing harm.
But on this Obama and the NRA seemed to agree Friday: The country is pervaded by a culture that glorifies guns and violence.
“There exists in this country a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people,” said LaPierre. “Through vicious, violent video games with names like Bulletstorm, Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat and Splatterhouse.”
In particular, LaPierre was incensed by one title that he said has been available online over the past decade: “Kindergarten Killers.”
LaPierre and others did not take questions, and remained on script even as the press conference was interrupted twice by protestors who held huge signs and shouted into a room filled with scores of reporters, some from news organizations across the globe. “It’s the NRA and assault weapons killing our children,” yelled one protester before being dragged out of a hotel ballroom.
“Because for all the noise and anger directed at us over the past week, no one—nobody—has addressed the most important, pressing and immediate question we face: How do we protect our children right now, starting today, in a way that we know works?”
The NRA, one of the most influential lobbying organizations in Washington, called on Congress to act immediately to “appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every school—and to do it now, to make sure that blanket of safety is in place when our children return to school in January.”
The group urged parents, school officials, and local authorities from across the country to improve school security, and that the NRA would make its resources available to develop programs.
“Assurance of school safety must be restored with a sense of urgency,” said Hutchison, who served as an undersecretary of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush.
Hutchison said armed security should be just one element of the plan, adding that no school should be required to place armed guards on campuses—seemingly contradicting the NRA’s position. He also said that the program should not depend on “massive funding” from local authorities or the federal government, but instead rely on a corp of volunteers.Bobby Caina Calvan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on twitter @GlobeCalvan.