NRA Newtown response: National program to place armed security in schools

The National Rifle Association on Friday, a full week after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, gave its first response to the massacre that killed 20 schoolchildren in Newtown, Conn. Wayne LaPierre, the NRA's executive vice president, argued at a press conference in Washington, D.C., that gun control legislation would not prevent similar shootings and offered the organization's own proposal: a nationwide program that would place armed security in every school desiring protection.

"I call on Congress today to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every single school in this nation," LaPierre said. The proposed program, called the National School Shield, would help train and install security at schools nationwide under the leadership of former Arkansas Republican Rep. Asa Hutchinson.

"Innocent lives might have been spared," LaPierre said, if armed security was present at Sandy Hook. "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."

LaPierre, Hutchinson and David Keene, president of the NRA, all declined to take questions from the press and said NRA press officers won't be responding to the media until Monday.

LaPierre in part blamed mass shootings on "vicious, violent video games" such as "Bulletstorm," "Grand Theft Auto," Mortal Kombat" and "Splatterhouse." He also reached back in time to place blame on movies like "American Psycho" and "Natural Born Killers" for portraying "life as a joke and murder as a way of life."

He added, "In a race to the bottom, media conglomerates compete with one another to shock, violate and offend every standard of civilized society by bringing an ever-more-toxic mix of reckless behavior and criminal cruelty into our homes—every minute of every day of every month of every year.”

He also criticized the media for vilifying guns and gun owners, and for publicizing inaccuracies about guns.

"Why is the idea of a gun good when it’s used to protect the president of our country or our police, but bad when it’s used to protect children in our schools?" he asked.

"It’s our duty to protect them," LaPierre said of the nation's schoolchildren. "It’s our right to protect them."

Part of the problem in protecting schools, he also said, is the designation of gun-free school zones. The zones "tell every insane killer in America that schools are the safest place to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk," he said.

Gun control advocates immediately decried the NRA's views as extreme and dangerous.

"Their press conference was a shameful evasion of the crisis facing our country," New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent, said in a statement. "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."

Bloomberg said NRA members support background checks for gun ownership because of gun violence. "As a country, we must rise above special interest politics," he added.

On Capitol Hill, Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, who conceded that armed security could be "helpful in some instances, noted in a statement that "the NRA’s statement is sadly and shamefully inadequate—calling for more guns and rejecting real action against gun violence. At a defining, historic moment demanding courageous leadership, the NRA has declined to step forward as a credible and constructive partner."

The press conference, despite the tight security at the Willard InterContinental Hotel where it was held, was interrupted twice by gun control protesters later identified as members of anti-war group Code Pink. A man rose from the press area in front of LaPierre during his speech and held up a pink cloth displaying the words "NRA Killing Our Kids." Later, a woman identified as Code Pink founder Medea Benjamin, unfurled a sign reading "NRA blood on your hands,” and shouted, "Reckless behavior coming from the NRA" and other comments as she was dragged out of the room.

A large security staff dressed in suits and wearing earpieces lined the perimeter of the makeshift stage as well as the room. Security staffers moved to sit directly in front and behind of LaPierre following the Code Pink protests as other security members stepped forward into the seating area.

Prior to the conference, gun control protesters as well as PETA protesters and others lined the street in front of the hotel entrance waving signs and shouting.

Pressure on lawmakers from gun-control advocates has increased in the wake of the shooting. President Barack Obama on Friday released a web video in response to an outpouring of White House petitions calling on the president to respond to gun violence.

“We hear you," Obama said in the video. "I will do everything in my power as president to advance these efforts, because if there’s even one thing we can do as a country to protect our children, we have a responsibility to try. But as I said earlier this week, I can’t do it alone. I need your help.”

Obama tasked Vice President Joe Biden to review potential gun legislation and other measures on which to act next session. Biden spoke Thursday to law enforcement leaders about banning assault weapons, though no further details were released on the private discussion.

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein has pledged to introduce a new federal assault weapons ban in January and has received support from several gun-rights advocates and from the White House.

Olivier Knox contributed to this report.