Saturday, December 22, 2012

THE NRA & THE SCHOOL ARMS RACE: Why deescalate when you can escalate?

"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."

- NRA honcho Wayne LaPierre

“The only thing that stops a really bad idea is the combination of truth and education.”

- smf

A defiant NRA calls for armed guards in every school

By Matea Gold, Los Angeles Times |

Wayne LaPierre

National Rifle Assn. Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre speaks at a news conference at the Willard Hotel in Washington. (Olivier Douliery / Abaca Press / MCT / December 21, 2012)

December 21, 2012, 9:27 a.m. --  WASHINGTON -- In an angry and defiant news conference, National Rifle Assn. Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre on Friday forcefully rejected calls to clamp down on guns in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school massacre, arguing instead for a massive deployment of armed guards to every school.

LaPierre pledged that the NRA would spearhead such an endeavor, appointing former Arkansas Rep. Asa Hutchinson to lead an effort to develop a cutting-edge model school security plan and a program to train volunteers who would be dispatched to campuses around the country.

In the meantime, he called on Congress to immediately appropriate funding to pay for police officers in every school "to make sure that blanket safety is in place when our kids return to school in January."

The NRA chief noted that armed security guards are stationed in front of banks, airports, courthouses and sports stadiums, and that Secret Service agents and Capitol police with guns protect the president and members of Congress.

"Yet when it comes to our most beloved, innocent and vulnerable members of the American family, our children, we as a society leave them every day utterly defenseless," he said in a sharply worded speech before a phalanx of news cameras. "And the monsters and the predators of the world know it and exploit it. That must change now."

"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun," he added, "is a good guy with a gun."

Friday’s news conference, held in the ballroom of a luxury Washington hotel a block from the White House, marked the first extensive comments by the influential pro-gun-rights organization since 20 young children and six adults were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School one week ago.

In the wake of the tragedy, President Obama called for an urgent new focus on preventing gun violence, appointing Vice President Joe Biden to oversee a task force on the topic. Calls have mounted for new laws tightening access to guns, and advocates of such measures have publicly urged the NRA to join them in a dialogue about new restrictions.

But it was clear from the initial moments of the news conference that the NRA’s tone would not be a conciliatory one.

LaPierre cast the issue in terms of security, warning darkly about evil forces who want to inflict harm on the innocent.

"The truth is that our society is populated by an unknown number of genuine monsters, people that are so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and driven by demons that no sane person can ever possibly comprehend them," he said. "They walk among us every single day. And does anybody really believe that the next Adam Lanza isn't planning his attack on a school he's already identified at this very moment? How many more copycats are waiting in the wings for their moment of fame from a national media machine that rewards them with wall-to-wall attention and a sense of identity that they crave while provoking others to try to make their mark?”

Two protesters interrupted his address at different times, holding up signs that read "NRA KILLING OUR KIDS" and "NRA HAS BLOOD ON ITS HANDS." Security guards pulled them out of the room as they shouted "Violence begins with the NRA!" and "Ban assault weapons now!"

Both times, LaPierre stood silently until they were gone, then resumed his speech without comment.

The NRA chief repeatedly lambasted the media, saying the implication in the press is that "guns are evil and have no place in society, much less in our schools."

"But since when did the gun automatically become a bad word?" he asked. "A gun in the hands of a Secret Service agent protecting our president isn't a bad word. A gun in the hands of a soldier protecting the United States of America isn't a bad word. And when you hear your glass breaking at 3 a.m. and you call 911, you won't be able to pray hard enough for a gun in the hands of a good guy to get there fast enough to protect you."

"Is it so important to you that you’d rather continue to risk the alternative?" he chastised. "Is the press and the political class here in Washington, D.C., so consumed by fear and hatred of the NRA and American gun owners that you're willing to accept a world where real resistance to evil monsters is a lone, unarmed school principal left to surrender her life -- her life -- to shield those children in her care? No one -- no one -- regardless of personal political prejudice, has the right to impose that sacrifice."

Melanie Mason in the Washington bureau contributed to this report.

NRA calls for armed police officer in every school

By Philip Elliott and Nedra Pickler, Associated Press Writers, from the LA Daily News |

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, left, during a news conference in response to the Connecticut school shooting on Friday, Dec. 21, 2012 in Washington. The National Rifle Association broke its silence Friday on last week's shooting rampage at a Connecticut elementary school that left 26 children and staff dead. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

12/21/2012 05:37:57 PM PST  --  WASHINGTON - Guns and police officers in all American schools are what's needed to stop the next killer "waiting in the wings," the National Rifle Association declared Friday, taking a no-retreat stance in the face of growing calls for gun control after the Connecticut shootings that claimed the lives of 26 children and school staff.

"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," said Wayne LaPierre, the group's chief executive officer.

Some members of Congress who had long scoffed at gun-control proposals have begun to suggest some concessions could be made, and a fierce debate over legislation seems likely next month. President Barack Obama has demanded "real action, right now."

The nation's largest gun-rights lobby broke its weeklong silence on the shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School with a defiant presentation. The event was billed as a news conference, but NRA leaders took no questions. Twice, they were interrupted by banner-waving protesters, who were removed by security.

Some had predicted that after the slaughter of a score of elementary-school children by a man using a semi-automatic rifle, the group might soften its stance, at least slightly. Instead, LaPierre delivered a 25-minute tirade against the notion that another gun law would stop killings in a culture where children are exposed daily to violence in video games, movies and music videos. He argued that guns are the solution, not the problem.

"Before Congress reconvenes, before we engage in any lengthy debate over legislation, regulation or anything else; as soon as our kids return to school after the holiday break, we need to have every single school in America immediately deploy a protection program proven to work," LaPierre said. "And by that I mean armed security."

He said Congress should immediately appropriate funds to post an armed police officer in every school. Meanwhile, he said the NRA would develop a school emergency response program that would include volunteers from the group's 4.3 million members to help guard children.

His armed-officers idea was immediately lambasted by gun control advocates, and not even the NRA's point man on the effort seemed willing to go so far. Former Republican Rep. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, whom LaPierre named national director of the program, said in an interview that decisions about armed guards in schools should be made by local districts.

"I think everyone recognizes that an armed presence in schools is sometimes appropriate," Hutchinson said. "That is one option. I would never want to have a mandatory requirement for every school district to have that."

He also noted that some states would have to change their laws to allow armed guards at schools.

Hutchinson said he'll offer a plan in January that will consider other measures such as biometric entry points, patrols and consideration of school layouts to protect security.

LaPierre argued that guards need to be in place quickly because "the next Adam Lanza," the suspected shooter in Newtown, Conn., is already planning an attack on another school.

"How many more copycats are waiting in the wings for their moment of fame from a national media machine that rewards them with wall-to-wall attention and a sense of identity that they crave, while provoking others to try to make their mark?" LaPierre asked. "A dozen more killers, a hundred more? How can we possibly even guess how many, given our nation's refusal to create an active national database of the mentally ill?"

While there is a federally maintained database of the mentally ill - people so declared by their states - a 1997 Supreme Court ruling that states can't be required to contribute information has left significant gaps. In any case, creation of a mandatory national database probably would have had little impact on the ability of suspected shooters in four mass shootings since 2011 to get and use powerful weapons. The other people accused either stole the weapons used in the attacks or had not been ruled by courts to be "mentally defective" before the shootings.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the NRA is blaming everyone but itself for a national gun crisis and is offering "a paranoid, dystopian vision of a more dangerous and violent America where everyone is armed and no place is safe."

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., called the NRA's response "both ludicrous and insulting" and pointed out that armed personnel at Columbine High School and Fort Hood could not stop mass shootings. The liberal group CREDO, which organized an anti-NRA protest on Capitol Hill, called LaPierre's speech "bizarre and quite frankly paranoid."

"This must be a wake-up call even to the NRA's own members that the NRA's Washington lobbyists need to stand down and let Congress pass sensible gun control laws now," CREDO political director Becky Bond said in a statement.

The NRA's proposal would be unworkable given the huge numbers of officers needed, said the president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Craig Steckler.

He pointed to budget cuts and hiring freezes and noted that in his hometown of Fremont, Calif., it would take half the city's police force to post one officer at each of the city's 43 schools.

The Department of Education has counted 98,817 public schools in the United States and an additional 33,366 private schools.

There already are an estimated 10,000 school resource officers, most of them armed and employed by local police departments, in the nation's schools, according to Mo Canady, executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers.

Gun rights advocates on Capitol Hill had no immediate comment. They will have to walk a tough road between pressure from the powerful NRA, backed by an army of passionate supporters, and outrage over the Sandy Hook deaths that has already swayed some in Congress to adjust their public views.

A CNN/ORC poll taken this week found 52 percent of Americans favor major restrictions on guns or making all guns illegal. Forty-six percent of people questioned said government and society can take action to prevent future gun violence, up 13 percentage points from two years ago in the wake of the shooting in Tucson, Ariz., that killed six and wounded then Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Since the Connecticut slayings, President Obama has demanded action against U.S. gun violence and has called on the NRA to join the effort. Moving quickly after several congressional gun-rights supporters said they would consider new legislation to control firearms, the president said this week he wants proposals that he can take to Congress next month.

Obama has already asked Congress to reinstate an assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 and to pass legislation that would stop people from purchasing firearms from private sellers without background checks. Obama also has indicated he wants Congress to pursue the possibility of limiting high-capacity firearms magazines.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said former President Bill Clinton called her with an offer to help get an assault weapons ban reinstated. Clinton signed such a ban into law in 1994, but it expired after 10 years.

Feinstein said she's not opposed to having armed guards at schools, but she called the NRA proposal a distraction from what she said was the real problem: "easy access to these killing machines" that are far "more powerful and lethal" than the guns that were banned under the old law.

  • Associated Press writers Andrew DeMillo in Little Rock, Ark., and Alicia A. Caldwell in Washington contributed to this report.

Teachers group reacts to NRA call for armed police at schools, no comment from LAUSD's Deasy

By Barbara Jones, Staff Writer, LA Daily News |

12/21/2012 01:36:21 PM PST  ::  The head of a prominent teachers group today decried a call by the National Rifle Association to station armed police at school campuses as a way to avert future mass killings.

The proposal by the politically powerful NRA is "irresponsible and dangerous," said Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.5 million-member American Federation of Teachers.

"Schools must be safe sanctuaries, not armed fortresses," she said in a statement. "Anyone who would suggest otherwise doesn't understand that our public schools must first and foremost be places where teachers can safely educate and nurture our students."

During a news conference in Washington, D.C., NRA chief Wayne LaPierre blamed video games, movies and music videos for exposing children to a violent culture.

His comments were the first by the nation's largest gun-rights lobby, with 4.3 million members, since the Dec. 14 slayings of 20 first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut,

"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," LaPierre said.

Los Angeles Unified Superintendent John Deasy refused to comment today on the NRA proposal.

Earlier in the week, however, Deasy said officials were studying the feasibility and cost of expanding the 300-member police force so an officer could be assigned to every elementary and middle school. Armed LAUSD officers are already stationed at all high schools in the nation's second-largest school district.

In the meantime, Los Angeles Police Department officers will add stops at elementary and middle schools to their daily patrols.

N.R.A. Envisions ‘a Good Guy With a Gun’ in Every School

Brendan Hoffman for The New York Times  | Wayne LaPierre, vice president of the National Rifle Association, took no questions at a news conference addressing the shootings in Newtown, Conn.


December 21, 2012  -- WASHINGTON — After a weeklong silence, the National Rifle Association announced Friday that it wants to arm security officers at every school in the country. It pointed the finger at violent video games, the news media and lax law enforcement — not guns — as culprits in the recent rash of mass shootings.

The N.R.A.’s plan for countering school shootings, coming a week after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., was met with widespread derision from school administrators, law enforcement officials and politicians, with some critics calling it “delusional” and “paranoid.” Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, a Republican, said arming schools would not make them safer.

Even conservative politicians who had voiced support this week for arming more school officers did not rush to embrace the N.R.A.’s plan.

Their reluctance was an indication of just how toxic the gun debate has become after the Connecticut shootings, as gun control advocates push for tougher restrictions.

Nationwide, at least 23,000 schools — about one-third of all public schools — already had armed security on staff as of the most recent data, for the 2009-10 school year, and a number of states and districts that do not use them have begun discussing the idea in recent days.

Even so, the N. R. A’s focus on armed guards as its prime solution to school shootings — and the group’s offer to help develop and carry out such a program nationwide — rankled a number of lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

“Anyone who thought the N.R.A. was going to come out today and make a common-sense statement about meaningful reform and safety was kidding themselves,” said Representative Mike Quigley, an Illinois Democrat, who has called for new restrictions on assault rifles.

Mr. LaPierre struck a defiant tone on Friday, making clear that his group was not eager to reach a conciliation. With the N.R.A. not making any statements after last week’s shootings, both supporters and opponents of greater gun control had been looking to its announcement Friday as a sign of how the nation’s most influential gun lobby group would respond and whether it would pledge to work with President Obama and Congress in developing new gun control measures.

Mr. LaPierre offered no support for any of the proposals made in the last week, like banning assault rifles or limiting high-capacity ammunition, and N.R.A. leaders declined to answer questions. As reporters shouted out to Mr. LaPierre and David Keene, the group’s president, asking whether they planned to work with Mr. Obama, the men walked off stage without answering.

Mr. LaPierre seemed to anticipate the negative reaction in an address that was often angry and combative.

“Now I can imagine the headlines — the shocking headlines you’ll print tomorrow,” he told more than 150 journalists at a downtown hotel several blocks from the White House.

“More guns, you’ll claim, are the N.R.A.’s answer to everything,” he said. “Your implication will be that guns are evil and have no place in society, much less in our schools. But since when did the gun automatically become a bad word?”

Mr. LaPierre said his organization would finance and develop a program called the National Model School Shield Program, to work with schools to arm and train school guards, including retired police officers and volunteers. The gun rights group named Asa Hutchinson, a former Republican congressman from Arkansas and administrator of the Drug Enforcement Agency, to lead a task force to develop the program.

Mr. LaPierre also said that before Congress moved to pass any new gun restrictions, it should “act immediately to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every single school in this nation” by the time students return from winter break in January.

The idea of arming school security officers is not altogether new. Districts in cities including Albuquerque, Baltimore, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami and St. Louis have armed officers in schools, either through relationships with local police departments or by training and recruiting their own staff members.

A federal program dating back to the Clinton administration also uses armed police officers in school districts to bolster security, and Mr. LaPierre himself talked about beefing up the number of armed officers on campuses after the deadly shootings in 2007 at Virginia Tech.

But what the N.R.A. proposed would expand the use of armed officers nationwide and make greater use of not just police officers, but armed volunteers — including retired police officers and reservists — to patrol school grounds. The organization offered no estimates of the cost.

Mr. LaPierre said that if armed security officers had been used at the Newtown school, “26 innocent lives might have been spared that day.”

The N.R.A. news conference was an unusual Washington event both in tone and substance, as Mr. LaPierre avoided the hedged, carefully calibrated language that political figures usually prefer, and instead let loose with a torrid attack on the N.R.A.’s accusers.

He blasted what he called “the political class here in Washington” for pursuing new gun control measures while failing, in his view, to adequately prosecute violations of existing gun laws, finance law enforcement programs or develop a national registry of mentally ill people who might prove to be “the next Adam Lanza,” the gunman in Newtown.

Mr. LaPierre also complained that the news media had unfairly “demonized gun owners.” And he called the makers of violent video games “a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells and sows violence against its own people,” as he showed a video of an online cartoon game called “Kindergarten Killer.”

While some superintendents and parents interviewed after the N.R.A.’s briefing said they might support an increased police presence on school campuses as part of a broader safety strategy, many educators, politicians, and crime experts described it as foolhardy and potentially dangerous. Law enforcement officials said putting armed officers in the nation’s 99,000 schools was unrealistic because of the enormous cost and manpower needed.

At a news conference Friday, Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who is leading an effort to reinstitute a ban on assault rifles, read from a police report on the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado, which detailed an armed officer’s unsuccessful attempts to disarm one of the gunmen. “There were two armed law enforcement officers at that campus, and you see what happened — 15 dead,” Ms. Feinstein said.

Ernest Logan, president of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, called the N.R.A.’s plan “unbelievable and cynical.”

He said placing armed guards within schools would “expose our children to far greater risk from gun violence than the very small risk they now face.”Officials in some districts that use armed security officers stressed that it was only part of a broader strategy aimed at reducing the risk of violence.

But Ben Kiser, superintendent of schools in Gloucester County, Va., where the district already has four police officers assigned to patrol schools, said it was just as important to provide mental health services to help struggling children and families.

“What I’m afraid of,” said Mr. Kiser, who is also president of the Virginia Association of School Superintendents, “is that we’re often quick to find that one perceived panacea and that’s where we spend our focus.”

In Newtown, Conn., the N.R.A.’s call for arming school guards generated considerable debate among parents and residents on Friday — much of it negative. Suzy DeYoung, a parenting coach who has one child in the local school system, said she thought many parents in town and around the country would object to bringing more guns onto school campuses.

“I think people are smarter than that,” she said.

  • Reporting was contributed by John H. Cushman Jr. and Jeremy W. Peters in Washington, and Serge F. Kovaleski and Richard Pérez-Peña in New York.

Document: Text of the N.R.A. Speech

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