(WASHINGTON) — The National Rifle Association stood its ground Friday in arguing that the answer to gun violence in schools is an armed security force that can protect students, while blaming the media and violent entertainment and video games for recent deadly shootings.
“The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre said in presenting the NRA’s first comments about the Connecticut school shooting since it occurred a week ago.
LaPierre offered no olive branch to gun-control advocates who have called for tougher laws in the wake of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Instead, he called for schools across the country to recruit armed security professionals to protect their students.
“It’s not just our duty to protect [our children], it’s our right to protect them,” LaPierre said at a news conference. “The NRA knows there are millions of qualified active and reserved police, active and reserve military, security professionals, rescue personnel, an extraordinary corps of qualified trained citizens to join with local school officials and police in devising a protection plan for every single school.”
He was interrupted twice by protesters who stood in front of LaPierre’s podium holding signs and shouting that the NRA “has blood on its hands” and that the NRA is “killing our kids.” The protesters were eventually escorted out of the room.
LaPierre also scoffed at the notion that banning so-called assault weapons or enacting gun control laws would stop school violence. He instead cast blame for gun violence in schools on violent entertainment, including video games and the media.
“How many more copycats are waiting in the wings for their moment of fame from a national media machine that rewards them with a wall of attention they crave while provoking others to make their mark?” he asked.
LaPierre announced that former U.S. congressman Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas would lead the NRA’s effort to advocate for school security forces.
The leadership of the NRA has held off on interviews this week after refusing to appear on Sunday morning public affairs shows this past weekend. They said they would grant interviews beginning next week to discuss their position.
NRA News anchor Ginny Simone said Thursday that in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, membership surged “with an average of 8,000 new members a day.”
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said the NRA is partially to blame for the tragedy.
“We’re not trying to take away your right to advance the interests of gun owners, hunters, people who want to protect themselves,” Bloomberg told Nightline anchor Cynthia McFadden in an interview Thursday. “But that’s not an absolute right to encourage behavior which causes things like Connecticut. In fact, Connecticut is because of some of their actions.”
The guns used in the attack were legally purchased and owned by the shooter’s mother, Nancy Lanza, whom Adam Lanza shot to death before his assault on the school.
In the aftermath of the shooting, many, including Bloomberg, have called for stricter regulations on the type of weapons used in this and other instances of mass gun violence this year.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has said she intends to introduce a bill banning assault weapons on the first day of next year’s Congress — a step the president said he supports.
President Obama announced Wednesday that Vice President Joe Biden will head a task force of leaders from across the country that will evaluate the best solutions to reduce gun violence in the United States.
Obama said he will “use all the powers of this office to help advance efforts aimed at preventing more tragedies like this.”
Mayors Against Illegal Guns, of which Mayor Bloomberg is co-chair, released a letter to President Obama signed by more than 750 mayors calling on him to produce a plan to “make it harder for dangerous people to possess guns.”
The letter asked for mandatory background checks for gun buyers, a ban on high-capacity rifles and ammunition magazines, and a designation of gun trafficking as a federal crime.
ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos looked at whether strict gun control laws like those that have worked for the United Kingdom and Japan could work for the U.S. on ABC’s Good Morning America Thursday.
Others have argued that, rather than banning guns, the government should be arming teachers and administrators in schools so that they can defend students in the event of another school shooting.
While Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed a measure that would have let guns into schools on Tuesday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell praised the idea.
Speaking on the NRA’s daily news program Tuesday, Dave Koppel of the Independence Institute said the teachers at Sandy Hook should have had weapons.
“We’d certainly be talking about fewer innocent people and children dead,” Koppel said.
While a national debate over the necessary solutions to prevent a tragedy of this nature from ever happening again wages on, Connecticut residents will have to wait “several months” before the final Connecticut State Police report on the Newtown shootings is complete.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Emanuella Grinberg, CNN
Doug Criss, CNN
Matt Egan, CNN
Stephen Collinson, CNN