Washington — National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre lobbed his first volley in what is now certain to be a bitter battle over gun control by saying Friday there should be armed guards in every school to prevent tragedies like the one in Newtown.
“The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun,” LaPierre said.
In the NRA’s first discussion of last week’s shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary, LaPierre blamed movies, videos, the media and unnamed lawmakers for putting the nation’s children at risk.
He showed a few seconds of a video called “Kindergarten Killers” to make his point. But mainly he promoted the NRA’s idea of a “National Model School Shield Program” to arm people in the nation’s schools.
In a Washington press conference where he took no questions, LaPierre introduced former Rep. Asa Hutchinson, R-Ark, as the head of the NRA initiative and asked Congress to appropriate money for it fast.
The press conference was interrupted twice by protesters who condemned the NRA. One protester held a large red banner in front of LaPierre that said “NRA killing our kids.”
LaPierre painted a dark picture of society with crazed killers “walking among us every day,” and the media ignoring a “shadow industry of vicious, violent video games” and “demonizing gun owners” instead.
The NRA’s actions provoked strong reactions.
“The NRA’s statement is sadly and shamefully inadequate — calling for more guns and rejecting real action against gun violence,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. “At a defining, historic moment, demanding courageous leadership, the NRA has declined to step forward as a credible and constructive partner.”
But Gov. Dannel Malloy declined to engage the NRA.
“There will no doubt be a substantive policy discussion in the days and months ahead, but right now his primary concern is for the families affected by this unimaginable tragedy,” Malloy’s Deputy Press Secretary David Bednarz said in a statement.
Even as the numbers of mass shootings were on the rise, there’s been little recent political debate on gun control. It was barely mentioned in this year’s campaigns for the White House.
In part due to the political vacuum, the NRA has recently been successful in rolling back gun control measures in state capitols. It also supported a successful legal challenge to Washington, D.C.’s, gun ban in the Supreme Court and won approval of bills that allow carrying guns in national parks and on checked luggage in Amtrak trains.
But since 20 children and six adults were gunned down in Newtown, there’s evidence of a public and political shift. A recent ABC/Washington Post poll determined 54 percent of Americans favored stricter gun control. Nearly 60 percent favored a ban on high-capacity magazines like the one Adam Lanza used in his Newtown killing spree.
A growing number of Democratic lawmakers in Congress — including the entire Connecticut congressional delegation — are calling for the renewal of bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines that expired in 2004 and the closing of a “loophole” that allows purchasers at gun shows to avoid background checks.
President Obama has also put the power of his office in the effort, appointing Vice President Joe Biden head of a Cabinet-level panel that will submit an array of proposals next month.
Obama is also trying to undercut the NRA by going directly to the American public for help.
“As I said before, I can’t do this alone,” Obama said in a taped address to signers of a petition for stricter gun laws.
But the NRA, which has 4 million members, still has plenty of clout. Its NRA Victory Fund PAC spent $14 million in the most recent election.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been trying to counteract the NRA’s clout by spending millions of dollars on candidates who support gun control.
For example, he produced a television ad in support of Sen.-elect Chris Murphy, D-Conn., when he ran against Republican Linda McMahon this year. The ad never ran because Hurricane Sandy took out electric power in New York and Connecticut, but Murphy won the election anyway.