The National Rifle Association (NRA) broke its weeklong silence following the Dec. 14 mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., by calling for armed guards at every school in the country.
Wayne LaPierre, the organization’s CEO and executive vice president, told a throng of reporters gathered in a Washington D.C. hotel that a well-trained security force is the only way to stop the true monsters who walk among us from preying on our children.
Society protects what it values, LaPierre said, pointing to security forces deployed to guard banks, airports, power plants, politicians, court houses, and sports stadiums.
“Yet when it comes to our most innocent and beloved members of the American family—our children—we as a society leave them every day utterly defenseless,” he said. “The monsters and predators of the world know it and exploit it. That must change now.”
The NRA plans to develop a model for school defense, called the School Shield Safety Program, and make it available to every school in the country, free of charge. Former Republican U.S. Rep. Asa Hutchinson, who served as undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security during President George W. Bush’s administration, will head the effort. Although the plan’s development remains in the early stages, Hutchinson said it would have two components: a model that can be modified to meet each school’s needs and freedom from dependence on massive amounts of federal or local funding.
Hutchinson pointed to a network of volunteers in his home state of Arkansas, called Watch Dog Dads, who patrol playgrounds to provide security. The NRA-backed security program would rely on a similar group of volunteers, including retired police officers, firefighters, service members, and security personnel. “There are people in every community who would be happy to serve, if only someone asked them to serve and gave them the training to do so,” Hutchinson said.
During an almost hour-long news conference, LaPierre railed against the media for perpetuating the lie that one more gun law can protect the innocent where other laws have failed. He even taunted reporters by speculating about the headlines that would top stories about Friday’s announcement. The media will imply that guns are evil and have no place in society, much less in schools, he said. The media will breathlessly declare the NRA wants more guns in school, not less, he said.
But La Pierre said the idea that an inanimate object can be evil is a fallacy, adding that anyone who has to call 911 at 3 a.m. can’t pray hard enough for a gun in the hands of a police officer to arrive fast enough. “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” he said.
LaPierre had to pause his well-scripted speech twice for his own security team to remove protestors who stood in front of cameras holding fabric signs with the slogan “Stop the NRA” painted in red letters. As guards propelled one protestor down the hall, she yelled, “NRA has blood on its hands. Ban assault weapons now.”
Calls for stricter gun laws have dominated the debate about policy changes in the wake of last week’s attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which left 20 children and six adults dead. Earlier this week, President Barack Obama appointed Vice President Joe Biden to head a commission to explore gun control laws and other safety measures. But the president also called on Congress to reinstate the ban on assault weapons that expired in 2004.
LaPierre said demands for more legislation mask a “dirty little truth” about an entertainment industry that infuses society with violence. He blamed movies and music for glamorizing and normalizing violence. But he reserved his most caustic criticism for video games, including the popular shooting game Mortal Combat. On monitors behind the podium, he showed another game called Kindergarten Killers, which lets players shoot at children in a school building. Why, he asked, didn’t the media ever mention that after the Sandy Hook shootings?
According to LaPierre, children growing up in America today witness 16,000 virtual murders by the time they turn 18, adding that the national media, the entertainment industry, its corporate owners, and stock holders, act as silent enablers if not complicit co-conspirators. “Rather than face its own moral failings, the media demonizes gun owners,” he said.