The central message from Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, was a simple one on Friday, as he spoke out on the Newtown, Conn. school shootings for the first time: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”Neither he nor the other NRA officials who spoke at the highly-anticipated news conference in Washington, D.C. took any questions from the media. But LaPierre did offer the journalists assembled plenty of advice. Stop attacking guns, he said, because guns are all we’ve got to protect us.
“The media call semi-automatic firearms ‘machine guns’ — they claim these civilian semi-automatic firearms are used by the military, and they tell us that the .223 round is one of the most powerful rifle calibers … when all of these claims are factually untrue. They don’t know what they’re talking about!” LaPierre said in a prepared version of his remarks, which he stuck to closely during the proceedings. “Worse, they perpetuate the dangerous notion that one more gun ban — or one more law imposed on peaceful, lawful people — will protect us where 20,000 others have failed!”
There were a lot of words at the NRA presser, but the message was very simple: the NRA will not follow some of the pro-gun rights politicians in Washington into a new discussion of gun regulations. Instead, the group has created a program designed to usher more guns into schools: NRA School Shield, led by former Arkansas Rep. Asa Hutchison (R). Hutchison was on hand to explain the program, and LaPierre likened it to NRA efforts during the Second World War.
“Our training programs are the most advanced in the world. That expertise must be brought to bear to protect our schools and our children now,” he said. “We did it for the nation’s defense industries and military installations during World War II, and we’ll do it for our schools today.”
School Shield is a “multifaceted” program, LaPierre said, but it was clear that the goal was more armed guards in schools. LaPierre said Congress should get a jump start on the process by putting armed adults in all schools by the end of the holiday break.
The idea behind School Shield isn’t new for the gun lobby. Indeed, LaPierre reminded the press he suggested something similar after the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings.
LaPierre’s attacks on the media and culture as responsible for gun violence also aren’t new. As if to emphasize how long groups like the NRA have been attacking movies, TV and video games, LaPierre name checked the video game Mortal Kombat and Oliver Stone film Natural Born Killers. The controversies surrounding those titles came and went before the switch from VHS to DVD.
LaPierre was interrupted multiple times by protesters who held up signs and yelled “shame.” LaPierre stopped talking while they were hauled out by security, but went on again as if nothing had happened.
On Capitol Hill, Democrats who have enjoyed support from the NRA in the past have urged the group to come to the table as Congress and the White House shifts their focus to new gun regulations. LaPierre did not address those formal efforts specifically, but his tone made it clear that the NRA is not about to change its tune, despite the national pressure.