WASHINGTON – The United States' most powerful pro-gun lobbying group, the National Rifle Association, called Friday for armed police or security guards to be deployed to every school in the country.
"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," declared NRA vice-president Wayne LaPierre, in the group's first reaction since last week's massacre of 26 children and staff in an elementary school.
In a combative statement that was briefly disrupted by two protesters bearing banners accusing the group of having blood on its hands, senior NRA leaders made no concession to calls for greater gun control.
Instead, they demanded that schools be immediately given armed protection.
"I call on Congress today to act immediately to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every single school in this nation," LaPierre said, in a lengthy statement. He took no questions from reporters.
He said the NRA was ready to help train security teams for schools and work with teachers and parents to improve security measures, and attacked the media and the political class for demonizing gun owners.
On Friday, a troubled 20-year-old man burst into an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut and gunned down 20 six- and seven-year-old children and six staff members trying to protect them, before taking his own life.
The massacre was only the latest in a series of criminal mass shootings in the United States this year, and prompted President Barack Obama to throw his weight behind plans to revive a ban on assault weapons.
But LaPierre insisted that gun ownership was not at the root of the problem, blaming the deaths instead on a lack of armed security and accusing Hollywood movies and video games of celebrating and promoting a culture of violence.
"You know, five years ago after the Virginia Tech tragedy when I said we should put armed security in every school, the media called me crazy," he said, referring to a 2007 campus shooting that left 32 people dead.
"But what if, what if when Adam Lanza started shooting his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday he'd been confronted by qualified armed security?" he demanded.
"Will you at least admit it's possible that 26 little kids -- that 26 innocent lives might have been spared that day? Is it so abhorrent to you that you'd rather continue to risk the alternative?"
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