In a rare appearance before national media, leaders of the National Rifle Association called on Americans to protect their children by putting armed guards in every school in the country.
The NRA’s executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, spoke one week after a gunman burst into an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., and killed 20 first-graders and six staff members. He did not take questions but asserted that legislation restricting access to firearms would not solve the problem of gun violence in the United States. Mr. LaPierre offered the NRA’s assistance in putting together safety programs in schools that include arming security personnel.
“Think about it,” said LaPierre, the public face of the 4.3-million member NRA, speaking at Washington’s Willard Hotel. “We care about our money, so we protect our banks with armed guards. American airports, office buildings, power plants, courthouses, even sports stadiums are all protected by armed security.”
He continued: “We care about our president, so we protect him with armed Secret Service agents. Members of Congress work in offices surrounded by Capitol police officers. Yet when it comes to our most beloved, innocent, and vulnerable members of the American family, our children, we as a society leave them every day utterly defenseless. And the monsters and the predators of the world know it and exploit it. That must change now.”
Protesters interrupted the NRA press appearance twice, hoisting banners and shouting slogans such as “NRA, stop killing our children,” and “We need gun control now.” Security personnel removed the protesters from the room.
LaPierre also went after the news media, accusing them of misreporting facts about firearms and being a part of corporate conglomerates that profit from producing violent films and video games.
“A child growing up in America today witnesses 16,000 murders and 200,000 acts of violence by the time he or she reaches the ripe old age of 18,” he said. “And throughout it all, too many in the national media, their corporate owners, and their stockholders act as silent enablers, if not complicit co-conspirators. Rather than face their own moral failings, the media demonized gun owners.”
He then predicted the headlines out of his media appearance: “More guns, you'll claim, are the NRA's answer to everything. Your implication will be that guns are evil and have no place in society, much less in our schools.”
Instead, he said, the answer is to allow the NRA to help make sure that any school district that wants help with a security plan will receive it. LaPierre introduced another NRA official, former Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R) of Arkansas, who will head up that effort, called the National Model School Shield Program.
“From armed security to building design and access control to information technology to student and teacher training, this multifaceted program will be developed by the very best experts in the field,” LaPierre said.
Meanwhile, President Obama is trying to keep up public pressure for a very different prescription for addressing gun violence. Early Friday morning, the White House released a video of the president thanking the 400,000-plus Americans who signed a petition on the White House’s We the People website urging action.
The president has already called on Congress to pass legislation banning assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, and requiring background checks for all gun purchasers. On Wednesday, he announced an interagency task force on gun violence led by Vice President Joe Biden, which will come up with a plan by the end of January.
"If we're going to succeed, it's going to take a sustained effort from mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, law enforcement and responsible gun owners – organizing, speaking up, calling their members of Congress as many times as it takes, standing up and saying, 'Enough' on behalf of all our kids,” Obama said in the video.
Public attitudes about gun access have changed only modestly in the week since the tragedy. A Pew Research Center poll released Thursday found 49 percent of Americans say it is more important to control gun ownership, versus 42 percent who say it is more important to protect the right of Americans to own guns. Opinion was evenly divided in July, following a movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colo.
The polling data released Thursday mark “the first time since Barack Obama took office that more Americans prioritize gun control than the right to own guns,” Pew reports.
However, Pew adds, support for gun control remains lower than before Obama took office. In April 2008, 58 percent called gun control a higher priority, while 37 percent chose protecting gun rights.