The National Rifle Association, virtually silent since the Newtown elementary school slaughter one week ago this Friday, recommended putting an armed police officer in every school in America….by the time children return from their holiday recesses.
At a packed press conference, NRA President Dave Keene turned the microphone over to the organization’s Executive Vice President, Wayne LaPierre, who announced the NRA will fund a task force chaired by former Arkansas Congressman, Asa Hutchinson. The NRA is calling the initiative the “National School Shield Safety Program.”
LaPierre blamed the federal government for failing to create a national database of mentally ill people. “The truth is, our society is populated by an unknown number of genuine monsters,” LaPierre said, “They walk among us every single day.” The NRA did not mention the name Adam Lanza, the 20 year old gunman who used a Bushmaster .223 caliber rifle to execute 20 first-graders, along with their principal, teacher, and other school personnel, last Friday.
The NRA blamed the media for trying to conceal a “dirty little truth”: the shadow industry that “sells and stokes violence against its own people”—a reference to an entertainment culture that often promotes a culture of violence in video games and film.
“Isn’t fantasizing about killing people the filthiest form of pornography?” LaPierre asked.
LaPierre was interrupted at least twice during the press conference, by protestors from “Code Pink”—who managed to unfurl red banners declaring boldly, “NRA Killing Our Kids.”
The first banner, held by a man, blocked LaPierre’s face for a solid 35 seconds, before a security guard pulled it down and ushered the screaming protestor out of the room, as he yelled, “The NRA and assault weapons are killing our children.”
A second protestor—a woman– later unfurled a similar banner and was pushed out of the room.
The NRA is suggesting that off-duty or retired police officers, along with military personnel, be recruited as volunteers in their communities across America, to protect schools.
“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” LaPierre said.
LaPierre made a similar recommendation after the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007, which left 32 people dead on campus, and noted “the media called me crazy.”
He then offered a “what if”: what if a security guard was in Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday. “The 26 innocent lives might have been saved that day,” LaPierre offered. He also referenced the unarmed school principal, Dawn Hochsprung, who valiantly tried to stop the crazed gunman, Adam Lanza. “Appropriate whatever is necessary to put an armed police officer in every school,” LaPierre said.
The grieving residents of Newtown, Connecticut—who buried eight more of the dead Friday—offered different responses to the NRA’s speech, and some found it appalling.
One called the timing of the NRA press conference “insensitive”—coming an hour after the bells tolled for the victims, on this one week anniversary. Another resident, Betsy Paynter, told “USA Today” that she turned the TV off in the middle of the speech, because she found the NRA’s address “completely off the mark.” Yet some residents did support the idea of having armed officers in every school.
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy of Long Island—whose husband, Dennis, was killed in the 1993 LIRR train massacre—said this: “I’m saddened by what I saw today, because the NRA’s leadership had an opportunity to help unite the nation behind efforts to reduce gun violence and avert massacres like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School, but it instead showed a disconnect between it and the majority of the American people.” McCarthy plans to introduce Senator Dianne Feinstein’s new “assault weapons ban” legislation in the House, when Congress returns to work in January.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City, who’s invested some of his own money into the fight against gun violence, also released a statement, which said of the NRA: “Instead of offering solutions to a problem they helped create, they offered a paranoid, dystopian vision of a more dangerous and violent America where everyone is armed and no place is safe.
And Kristen Rand—director of the Violence Policy Center—told MSN online why she was troubled by the prospect of armed, volunteer school guards: “The last thing we need are the George Zimmermans of the world patrolling our schools,” Rand said, referring to the Florida man who was a neighborhood watch volunteer—now charged with murdering unarmed teen, Trayvon Martin.
Dave Keene closed the NRA press conference without taking any questions and claimed the organization will be open to doing interviews next week.
The National Rifle Association has four million members nationwide: “mothers, fathers, sons and daughters” Kane said, “who joined the nation in horror, outrage….and prayer” when the slaughter happened.
The NRA has been a highly powerful lobbying force on Capitol Hill, successfully convincing Congress to let the federal assault weapons ban expire in 2004, with no new law created.