The executive vice president of the National Rifle Association on Friday called for Congress to pass legislation and funding that would placed armed officers in every school in the country, indicating the group will go its own route in addressing the national furor over gun violence in schools in the wake of last week’s shooting rampage at a Connecticut elementary school.
In a defiant, determined tone, Wayne LaPierre said that it is the country’s duty to protect its children, adding that for all the “noise and anger” directed at the group in the last week, the question still remains: “How do we protect our children right now — starting today — in a way we know works?”
The NRA executive said the nation’s gun laws were not to blame for the Newtown, Conn., shooting, but instead the focus should be on the failure to deal adequately with the mentally ill, the decision not to deploy armed protection for the nation’s schools, a national media and an entertainment industry that glorifies violence and mass killers, and the failure to prosecute violent criminals.
Mr. LaPierre blasted “gun-free zones” for schools, saying they’re simply open advertisements to “every insane killer in America” that schools “are the safest place to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk.”
“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. … It’s not just our duty to protect [our children]; it’s our right to protect them.”
“Would you at least admit it’s possible that 26 innocent lives might have been spared that day?” he said. “Can’t we afford a police officer in every school?”
“We must act now for the sake of every child in America,” Mr. LaPierre said.
He also announced that the politically powerful gun lobby has recruited former Rep. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas to head a national training and emergency response program sponsored by the group to develop a model security plan schools can adopt if they so choose.
Mr. LaPierre also said that gore-filled video games bore much of the blame for a culture of violence that produced incidents such as Newtown, noting such popular titles produced by the video game industry as “Bulletstorm,” “Mortal Kombat” and “Kindergarten Killers.”
“In a race to the bottom, many conglomerates compete with one another to shock, violate and offend every standard of civilized society, by bringing an even more toxic mix of reckless behavior and criminal cruelty right into our homes,” Mr. LaPierre said.
He said the national press also deserved blame for misleading coverage of the shooting and misguided focus on gun laws.
Calling the media “silent enablers” of such mass shootings, Mr. LaPierre said, “Rather than face their own moral failures, the media demonize lawful gun owners.”
Gun-control advocates were quick to condemn the NRA’s response.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg, New Jersey Democrat, said it was “beyond belief” that, in the wake of the Newtown tragedy, the gun organization’s leaders “want to fill our communities with guns and arm more Americans.”
“The NRA points the finger of blame everywhere and anywhere it can, but they cannot escape the devastating effects of their reckless comments and irresponsible lobbying tactics,” said Mr. Lautenberg, who has introduced legislation to ban magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. “The NRA leadership is wildly out of touch with its own members, responsible gun owners, and the American public who want to close dangerous loopholes and enact common-sense gun safety reform. It is clear that their real priority is to help gun manufacturers sell more guns — not to protect our children or Americans’ rights. The extreme rhetoric of Wayne LaPierre and the NRA is disturbing and dangerous, and will only exacerbate America’s deadly culture of gun violence.”
“I do not believe those remarks represent anywhere near a significant portion of America,” Mr. Hoyer said. “I am very hopeful that we will go in a direction that will say these weapons of mass killing capability will be limited.”
New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a staunch gun-control advocate, lambasted the group and called the press conference “a shameful evasion of the crisis facing our country.”
“Instead of offering solutions to a problem they have helped create, they offered a paranoid, dystopian vision of a more dangerous and violent America where everyone is armed, and no place is safe,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “Leadership is about taking responsibility, especially in times of crisis. Today the NRA’s lobbyists blamed everyone but themselves for the crisis of gun violence.”
Two protesters — one holding up a pink sign reading, “NRA killing our children” — interrupted Mr. LaPierre during his remarks at the Willard Hotel in downtown D.C., and they were escorted out of the room.
NRA President David Keene said at the outset of the briefing that the group would take no questions from the press on its statement until next week, and Mr. LaPierre ignored questions shouted at him as he walked off the stage.
While the debate on gun control, mental health and a “culture of violence” in the country raged for days on Capitol Hill, the country’s most powerful gun-rights lobbying group had remained largely silent.
On Tuesday, the group released a statement saying the group was “saddened” and “heartbroken” by news of the event, saying it was “prepared to offer meaningful contributions to make sure this never happens again.”
Mr. LaPierre’s Friday remarks came on the same day the White House and many government entities around the country held a moment of silence at 9:30 a.m. for the victims of last week’s shootings.
In the last week, an online petition calling for Congress to immediately act on the issue of gun control posted on the White House’s “We the People” section has garnered 400,000 signatures, making it one of the most popular petitions during Mr. Obama’s first term.
In a video response to the petition, President Obama called on Americans across the country who are fed up with the outbreaks of violence to keep the pressure on Congress to act.
Earlier this week, Mr. Obama said he supports reinstating a ban on assault weapons and large magazine clips as part of a broader look at mental-health issues and violent influences on youths.
He tapped Vice President Joseph R. Biden to lead a task force of Cabinet officials and outside groups to examine the issues behind the massacre in Newtown and the string of tragic shootings the nation has experienced in recent years.