Critics Slam NRA's Call for Armed School Guards

PHOTO: Activist Medea Benjamin, of Code Pink, is led away by security as she protests during a statement by National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre, during a news conference in response to the Connecticut school shooting, Dec. 2
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Gun control advocates slammed the National Rifle Association today for its proposal to create a force of armed security guards at schools across the country as a response to the Connecticut school shooting.

"It is beyond belief that following the Newtown tragedy, the National Rifle Association's leaders want to fill our communities with guns and arm more Americans," Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., said.

Criticism mounted after the NRA addressed for the first time last week's school shooting in Newtown, Conn., in which Adam Lanza, 20, used a semiautomatic weapon to open fire on students and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School, killing 26 at the school.

NRA spokesman Wayne LaPierre this morning dismissed the notion that the pro-gun group of about 4 million members would support any kind of gun-control laws, instead saying that "the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."

Rep. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who represents the district encompassing Newtown, reacted angrily to the comments after attending the funeral of another victim from last Friday's massacre.

"Walking out of another funeral and was handed the NRA transcript. The most revolting, tone deaf statement I've ever seen," @ChrisMurphyCT tweeted.

LaPierre argued that the answer to gun violence in schools is an armed security force that can protect students, made up of trained volunteers stationed at every school across the country.

"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 protestors 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 protestors were eventually escorted out of the room.

Lautenberg, who has introduced legislation that would ban large-capacity ammunition magazines, called the NRA "irresponsible."

"The NRA points the finger of blame everywhere and anywhere it can, but they cannot escape the devastating effects of their reckless comments and irresponsible lobbying tactics," Lautenberg said.

Mark Kelly, a former NASA astronaut and husband of former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in Arizona, said, "The NRA could have chosen to be a voice for the vast majority of its own members who want common sense, reasonable safeguards on deadly firearms, but instead it chose to defend extreme pro-gun positions that aren't even popular among the law-abiding gun owners it represents."

The Violence Policy Center, a gun-control advocacy organization, said the NRA's idea of arming security guards at schools would not stop school violence.

"The NRA plan, which cynically allows for the continued sale of the assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines marketed by its gun industry corporate donors, has already been tried, and it did not work," the group said in a statement released today.

It pointed to the mass shooting at Columbine High School in 1999, in which two armed police officers were at the school when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold opened fire. The officers exchanged gunfire with the killers, but were unable to stop them from their rampage.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi conceded that the issue is "complicated, but she said the NRA's call for an escalation "is not a positive force" in the renewed gun-control debate.

"For the NRA and others to sort of shield themselves by saying it's the mentally ill or something, and therefore we have to have more armed cops in the schools or more guns in the school -- what are they -- are they going to have [a gun] on the teacher's desk?" Pelosi wondered.

"'Wait a minute, man with a gun; I have it locked up someplace. Wait until I go get it.' I mean, this ... just doesn't make sense; we've got to reduce violence."

LaPierre had dismissed 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. Hutchinson specified that the NRA, with about 4 million members, is calling for volunteers to act as the armed guards, rather than requiring funding from local or federal authorities.

"Whether they're retired police, retired military or rescue personnel, I think there are people in every community in this country who would be happy to serve if only someone asked them and gave them the training and certifications to do so," Hutchinson said.

NRA leaders have held off on interviews this week after refusing to appear on Sunday morning public affairs shows. 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."

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