N.R.A. Calls for Armed Guards in Schools, but No Gun Curbs

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WASHINGTON -- After a weeklong silence since the Connecticut school shootings, the National Rifle Association on Friday called for a program to arm and train guards in schools as the best way to protect children from gun violence. The group blamed video games, the news media and lax law enforcement – but not guns – for a recent rash of mass shootings.

It offered no new proposals to restrict firearms.

"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," said Wayne LaPierre, the N.R.A.'s vice president, at a packed media event was interrupted twice by protesters demanding tougher gun controls.

Angry and combative, Mr. LaPierre, who has led the N.R.A.'s operations for two decades, complained that the news media had unfairly "demonized gun owners," and he called the makers of violent video games "a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people."

Shock over the Connecticut shootings has spurred wide calls for tighter gun control measures, with even some pro-gun lawmakers aligned with the N.R.A. saying that they were rethinking their positions. With the N.R.A. unusually quiet since the shootings, gun control supporters and opponents had looked to Friday's event as a sign of how the nation's largest and best-known gun lobby would respond and whether it would pledge cooperation with the White House and lawmakers seeking new actions.

Mr. LaPierre's defiant tone suggested otherwise. He and David Keene, the group's president, took no questions from reporters at the event who called out asking whether they planned to work with President Obama.

The N.R.A.'s main answer to school violence was a model program it unveiled called National School Shield, which would train and arm security guards at schools in those local districts that want to use it.

The group said it would pay for a task force to develop details for the model, and named Asa Hutchinson, a former Arkansas congressman and a strong supporter of the N.R.A., to lead it.

"Assurance of school safety must be restored with a sense of urgency," Mr. Hutchinson said. The gun group called for schools to arm their security officers immediately.

The idea is not a completely new one. The federal government and local districts have developed programs meant to bolster security at schools -- with varying models and mixed results -- and the N.R.A. itself has developed safety programs for children and schools in the past and suggested armed guards.

This time, Mr. LaPierre said the N.R.A. would dedicate its resources and expertise to developing the new safety program he announced Friday. He did not say how much money it planned to spend on the effort.

He said that armed security guards at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14 might have stopped the gunman, Adam Lanza, at the outset of his rampage. "Will you at least admit," Mr. LaPierre said, appealing directly to members of the news media who he said had been unduly skeptical of the N.R.A., "that 26 innocent lives might have been spared that day?"

He added, "The only way -- the only way -- to stop a monster from killing our kids is to be personally involved and invested in a plan of absolute protection."

"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 our children in our schools?" he asked. "They're our kids. They're our responsibility. And it's not just our duty to protect them; it's our right to protect them."

Gun-free school zones identified by signs, he said, serve only to "tell every insane killer in America that schools are the safest place to effect maximum mayhem with minimum risk."

Advocates for gun control were unimpressed by the N.R.A.'s announcement, with some critics calling it paranoid and out of step with much of the country.

"Anyone who thought the N.R.A. was going to come out today and make a common-sense statement about meaningful reform and safety was kidding themselves," said Representative Mike Quigley, an Illinois Democrat who has supported a ban on assault rifles and high-capacity ammunition, among other measures.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York, who has led calls for tougher gun laws, and helped to pay for them, called the N.R.A.'s response "a shameful evasion of the crisis facing our country."

The event Friday, billed as a news conference, was odd both in tone and substance. Rather than offer the type of hedged or carefully calibrated comments that politicians and lobbyists often prefer, Mr. LaPierre let loose with a scorching attack on the N.R.A.'s accusers.

He blasted what he called "the political class here in Washington" for pursuing new gun control measures while failing, in his view, to adequately prosecute violations of existing gun laws, pay for law enforcement programs or develop a national registry of mentally ill people who might prove to be "the next Adam Lanza."

He said ominously that the next mass school shooter was probably already plotting an attack. The only question, he said, is how many more shooters there will be. "A dozen more killers? A hundred more?" Mr. LaPierre said. "How can we possibly even guess how many, given our nation's refusal to create an active national database of the mentally ill?"

Even while the N.R.A. was offering to help schools better protect themselves, it proved unable to guard its own media event from protesters.

Reporters had to show media credentials to get in. But two protesters from the group Code Pink sneaked inside, getting seats in the first two rows, and, minutes apart, stood up with large banners in front of Mr. LaPierre and shouted denunciations.

"Violence begins with the N.R.A.!" yelled Tighe Barry, a protester from Santa Monica, Calif., as he was forced out of the room by security guards.

Mr. Barry would not say afterward how he managed to get into the tightly guarded event. "There's doors – there's ways to get in," he said, smiling.


This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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