A week after a gunman killed 20 students and 6 adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre responded to those demanding more gun control by calling for more guns. “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun,” he said at a Washington press conference on Friday, “is a good guy with a gun.” The NRA’s prescription for preventing tragedies like Newtown: Put armed guards in every public school in America.
Under LaPierre’s proposed “National School Shield” program, the NRA would help the nation’s roughly 100,000 public schools develop emergency plans that include “armed good guys,” which might be retired police or reserve military members. He said all schools should be more like banks and sports arenas, which frequently have armed security. “If we truly cherish our kids more than our money or our celebrities,” he said, “we must give them the greatest level of protection possible.” He called on Congress to act “immediately” to appropriate “whatever is necessary” to put armed officers in all schools before children return to classes after the holidays.
Shortly after President Obama took part in a moment of silence for the Newtown victims, LaPierre described those people as martyrs who illustrate the need for more security in schools. “Does anybody really believe that the next Adam Lanza isn’t planning his attack on a school he’s already identified at this very moment?” he asked, referring to people like the alleged Newtown shooter as “genuine monsters — people so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and driven by demons that no sane person can possibly ever comprehend them.”
Outside the press conference, about 100 people gathered to protest LaPierre’s appearance. Members of PETA stood in a line spanning the entrance, holding signs that read “Ban hunting” and “Teach kindness, not killing.” Other activists had set up a faux-bedroom scene to accuse businesses of being “in bed” with the NRA. There were also protesters unaffiliated with any group. David Churchill, 34, held a placard reading “NRA: Are you here to apologize?” Churchill said he wanted to hear LaPierre say that calls for broader Second Amendment rights had led America down the wrong path. But, he said, he expected him to say that “the guns aren’t the problem. Everything else is the problem.” In his remarks LaPierre blamed gun violence on many forces, such as video games, Hollywood films, music videos and the mass media.
Reporters had to file through multiple security checks to get into the hotel conference room where LaPierre spoke. Still, protestors found their way into the crowd and twice interrupted LaPierre’s remarks. One man held a sign with shaking hands and yelled, “It’s the NRA and assault weapons that are killing our children!” as he was dragged out by security. Reporters attempted to follow the outburst with questions for LaPierre, but no NRA officials took questions during the meeting.
Politicians such as Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who authored the assault weapon ban in Bill Clinton’s landmark 1994 crime bill, have announced plans to push new gun control legislation. The NRA, one of Washington’s most powerful lobbies, has blocked such measures for decades.
Earlier this week, President Obama dispatched Vice President Joe Biden to lead a task force that will recommend policies to address gun violence next month. Biden’s first move was to meet with law enforcement officers, a crucial group in the debate about gun control. LaPierre made a play for that same bloc in his remarks, asking the “millions of qualified active and retired police” to join the NRA in their plan to outfit schools with armed security. “We can’t wait for the next unspeakable crime to happen before we act,” LaPierre said in closing. “We can’t lose precious time debating legislation that won’t work.”