Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National
Rifle Association (NRA), speaks during a news conference in
Washington. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
The National Rifle Association, the powerful US gun lobby
group, called for armed guards at every US school and rejected
the notion that curbs on weapons would protect children in the
wake of last week's Connecticut school massacre.
In a rare press briefing, NRA Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre
gave an impassioned speech that blamed the media for
glorifying violence and perpetuating the idea that tighter
gun restrictions would reduce mass shootings.
"They perpetuate the dangerous notion that one more gun ban -
or one more law imposed on peaceful, lawful people - will
protect us where 20,000 others have failed," LaPierre said at
the event at a hotel near the White House.
"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy
with a gun."
His approach was rejected by gun control activists who have
revived demands for a ban on assault rifles and big
ammunition clips after the Newtown, Connecticut killings,
which followed a series of mass shootings at schools and
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the NRA offered "a
paranoid, dystopian vision" of a more violent country. "While
they promote armed guards, they continue to oppose the most
basic and common sense steps we can take to save lives - not
only in schools, but in our movie theatres, malls, and
streets," he said in a statement.
LaPierre, twice interrupted by hecklers who were hustled out,
suggested a range of ways to prevent violence besides the
school guard program, including better treatment of mental
illness and cracking down on gory video games and films.
The NRA had largely been silent since last Friday, when
20-year-old Adam Lanza used a high-powered rifle to shoot
dead 20 young children and six adults at close range at the
Sandy Hook elementary school.
The massacre of so many children provoked national outrage
that some see as marking a tipping point for sweeping federal
legislation to restrict weapons and ammunition and a law
requiring background checks on buyers before all gun
President Barack Obama has formed an interagency group led by
his cabinet members to come up with specific proposals by
January that could include legislation and executive action.
LaPierre, whose organisation counts 4 million people as its
members, said the United States should focus on quick action
that would better arm schools.
He laid out a plan for a "National School Shield" and said
former US congressman Asa Hutchinson from Arkansas would head
up the NRA's effort to develop a model security program for
"I call on Congress today 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," LaPierre said.
There are now about 10,000 armed guards in U.S. schools, most
of them in middle and high schools. There are about 130,000
schools in the country.
Shooting deaths are common in the United States, where the
right to own a gun is included in the Constitution.
Soon after the NRA's press briefing, news spread of another
multiple shooting in Pennsylvania. The Altoona Mirror
newspaper reported that four people including the shooter
were killed and three police officers were wounded in
Hutchinson and the NRA officials took no questions after
making statements at the 30-minute press event, which was
interrupted twice by shouting protesters.
In Washington, some Democratic lawmakers who had not
supported gun control said this week they were reconsidering.
One, U.S. Representative John Yarmuth of Kentucky, apologized
for his earlier silence on the issue.
On Friday, Yarmuth blasted the NRA and said it does not
represent the views of its members. "Every American has the
right to be safe from guns without carrying a gun. The only
meaningful contribution the NRA made today was to the gun
manufacturers in the form of free advertising,' he said.
Democratic lawmakers have pledged to reintroduce early next
year a measure to reinstate a 1994 assault weapons ban that
expired in 2004, among other reforms.
But there was no guarantee that any laws would change. Only
one Republican, outgoing Senator Scott Brown, a moderate from
Massachusetts who said he backed the assault weapons ban, has
said he would support any tightening of gun regulations.
Medea Benjamin, co-director of the peace group Code Pink, who
was one of the protesters escorted from the news conference,
criticized the NRA and legislators. "If teachers can stand up
to gunmen, Congress can stand up to the NRA," she said.