The National Rifle Association does not plan to support any new gun control measures in the wake of the shooting rampage in Newtown, Conn., the head of the organization said Sunday, arguing that the government should vigorously enforce laws already on the books and reiterating the group’s push for more armed guards in schools as part of the solution.
Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre, answering questions for the first time since the Dec. 14 shootings, said legislation to impose restrictions on clip sizes or bans on so-called assault weapons will not help prevent massacres such as the one in which 20 first-graders and six adults were fatally shot at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“If it’s crazy to call for armed officers in our schools to protect our children, then call me crazy,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “I think the American people think it’s crazy not to do it. It’s the one thing that would keep people safe.”
“You can’t legislate morality,” he added. “We don’t prosecute anybody under federal gun laws right now. If you want to control violent criminals, take them off the streets.”
After a self-imposed silence by the group in the days after the shootings, Mr. LaPierre said Friday that the nation’s gun laws were not to blame for mass killings, and that the focus instead should be on the failure to deal adequately with the mentally ill, the decision not to deploy armed protection for the nation’s schools, the national media, an entertainment industry that glorifies violence and mass killers, and the failure to prosecute violent criminals.
Mr. LaPierre has tapped former Rep. Asa Hutchinson, Arkansas Republican, to head a group tasked with developing a model safety plan that local school systems throughout the country can use. If the issue is gun safety, Mr. LaPierre said, Mr. Hutchinson would be the best representative for the NRA. But it appears the group does not plan to participate in a task force of Cabinet officials and outside groups, headed by Vice President Joseph R. Biden, to examine the issues behind the massacre in Newtown and the string of tragic shootings the nation has experienced in recent years.
“If it’s a panel that’s just going to be made up of a bunch of people that for the last 20 years have been trying to destroy the Second Amendment, I’m not interested in sitting on that panel,” he said. “The American public supports their freedoms. NRA is not going to let people lose the Second Amendment in this country, which is supported by the overwhelming majority of the American people.”
Some were surprised that Mr. LaPierre on Friday essentially ignored the issue of gun control — an issue he repeatedly said Sunday would not fix anything. But Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said Mr. LaPierre’s “doctrinaire” stance would help people pushing for Congress to enact new measures.
“He blames everything but guns,” Mr. Schumer said later in the program. “Trying to prevent shootings in schools without talking about guns is like trying to prevent lung cancer without talking about cigarettes.”
Andrei Nikitchyuk, whose 8-year-old son was pulled into a classroom by a teacher and survived the shootings, urged “responsible gun owners and NRA members” Sunday to join the call for meaningful conversation as part of a push from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence that began after the July shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the group co-chaired by New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, has begun an aggressive advertising campaign urging people to “demand a plan” from Mr. Obama and Congress on gun control.
Some pro-gun Democrats, including Sens. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Mark R. Warner of Virginia, have re-examined their views on so-called assault weapons in the wake of the Newtown shootings.
“To me, simply saying existing gun laws are enough, the status quo’s acceptable, just didn’t pass my gut check as a father,” Mr. Warner said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
Republicans, meanwhile, had mixed reactions to the NRA’s position.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, said on “Meet the Press” that he didn’t know whether there is a way to stop acts of violence if a person is determined, and that he does not favor reinstating a ban on assault weapons, as Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, has proposed.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Texas Republican, said high-capacity clips should be at least a topic for discussion and that she doesn’t object to the idea of having more armed officers in schools.
“Those large clips — I think that does need to be looked at,” she said on “Face the Nation.”
Sen.-designate Tim Scott, South Carolina Republican, said on that program that he wants to see what comes out of the White House’s task force before deciding whether or not placing more armed guards in schools is a good idea.
“To rush to judgment, I think, is a bit premature on what we should do. I think after we have the committee’s report, we should take a very serious look at whatever it takes to keep our kids safe at school,” he said. “Understanding what happened and why — after we have those answers we’ll be in a much better position to decide the path forward.”