In a press conference reflecting on last week's massacre in Newtown, Conn., the National Rifle Association's Wayne LaPierre today insisted that increased gun laws would not have prevented the violence that felled 20 first-graders at Sandy Hook Elementary School -- and instead called on Congress to send armed police officers in every school in America.
LaPierre, whose remarks were interrupted twice by pro-gun control protesters, disdained the notion that stricter gun laws could have prevented "monsters" like Adam Lanza from committing mass shootings, and wondered why schools, unlike banks, don't have the protection of armed forces.
"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," he said.
Rolling out a proposal to help governments train and provide security at schools, Lapierre argued that children should benefit from the same protection Congress members enjoy.
"We must speak for the safety of our nation's children," said LaPierre. "We care about our money, so we protect our banks with armed guards. American airports, office buildings, power plants, courthouses, even sports stadiums, are all protected by armed security. We care about our president, so we protect him with armed Secret Service agents. Members of Congress works in offices surrounded by Capitol police officers, 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. And the monsters and the predators of the world know it and exploit it."
"That must change now," argued Lapierre, moments before being interrupted by a protester carrying a large pink sign proclaiming that the "NRA is killing our kids." "The truth is that our society is populated by an unknown number of genuine monsters -- people so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and driven by demons that no sane person can possibly ever comprehend them. They walk among us every 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?"
In a statement announcing the press conference earlier this week, the NRA broke its post-Newtown silence to say it was "prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again."
On Wednesday, President Obama announced the creation of a task force aimed at providing actionable policy ideas to prevent or reduce gun violence in America.
Vice President Joe Biden, a key author of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, will helm the task force, and cabinet members and outside groups will be called on for ideas and contributions.
Many believe that in the wake of the tragedy, the political will to reinstate the assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004, will increase. The president long has supported a ban, but exerted little effort to get it passed during his first term. According to White House spokesman Jay Carney, Mr. Obama also would support closing a "gun show loophole" allowing people to buy arms from private dealers without background checks, and would be interested in legislation limiting high-capacity ammunition magazines.
Even while the president has acknowledged the political difficulties associated with gun laws, he said this week that the complexity of the problem "can no longer be an excuse for doing nothing."
Unlike in the cases of previous mass murders, new evidence suggests Americans increasingly support tougher gun control in the wake of the Newtown massacres. According to a recent CBS News poll, support for stricter gun laws is the highest it's been in a decade, surging 18 points since the spring of this year.
According to that poll, conducted Dec. 14 - 16, 57 percent of Americans now say gun control laws should be made more strict. That's up 10 points from January 2011 -- following the shooting of then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona -- when a CBS News poll found that 47 percent of Americans backed stricter gun laws. In April of this year, just 39 percent of Americans supported stricter gun laws.
In a statement today, Daniel Gross, the president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, urged NRA members to "join us" in fighting to end gun violence.
"To the 74 percent of NRA members who support requiring a criminal background check of anyone purchasing a gun...To the 87 percent of NRA members who believe that the 2nd Amendment can coexist with efforts to keep illegal guns out of the hands of criminals... To all NRA members who believe like we do, that we are better than this, we send this message... Join us," he wrote. "Join us in making sure the gun violence ends now. We are all Americans and we all agree we are better than this."
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