Unwavering NRA opposes any new gun restrictions
Washington • An unwavering National Rifle Association said Sunday that not a single new gun regulation was needed to prevent mass shootings such as the one at a Connecticut elementary school, that "a media machine" relishes blaming the gun industry for each new attack and that a White House task force on gun violence may try to undermine the Second Amendment.
"Look, a gun is a tool. The problem is the criminal," the CEO of the nation's largest gun-rights lobby said in a nationally broadcast television interview, mocking supporters of gun control.
Wayne LaPierre hardly backed down from his comments Friday, when the NRA broke its weeklong silence on the shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in a staged event billed as a news conference though questions weren't allowed.
While the group had promised "meaningful contributions" to ensure that such an attack never happened again, LaPierre's assertion that guns and police officers in all schools are what will stop the next killer drew widespread scorn, and even some NRA supporters in Congress are publicly disagreeing with the group. Rep. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., called it "the most revolting, tone-deaf statement I've ever seen." A headline from the New York Post summarized LaPierre's initial presentation before reporters with the headline: "Gun Nut! NRA loon in bizarre rant over Newtown."
LaPierre told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday that only those armed guards and police would make kids safe, and that a culture of violence popularized by the entertainment industry movies, music, video games was responsible for senseless shootings.
"If it's crazy to call for putting police and armed security in our schools to protect our children, then call me crazy," LaPierre said. "I think the American people think it's crazy not to do it. It's the one thing that would keep people safe."
He asked Congress for money to put a police officer in every school, and said the NRA would coordinate a national effort to put former military and police offers in schools as volunteer guards.
The group will oppose any new gun restrictions on Capitol Hill.
"You want one more law on top of 20,000 laws, when most of the federal gun laws we don't even enforce," he said.
Lock up violent criminals and get the mentally ill the treatment they need, LaPierre said.
"The average guy in the country values his freedom, doesn't believe the fact he can own a gun is part of the problem, and doesn't like the media and all these high-profile politicians blaming him, and every time a tragedy" occurs.
Lawmakers were incredulous, yet acknowledged that the political and fundraising might of the NRA would make President Barack Obama's push for gun restrictions a struggle.
"I have found the statements by the NRA over the last couple of days to be really disheartening, because the statements seem to not reflect any understanding about the slaughter of children" in Newtown, said Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent.
NRA officials, he said, "have been willing to deal with every possible cause of gun violence, except guns. They're right that there's a problem for our society how do you spot a child or a person who is troubled before they become a killer? What's the influence of violence in our entertainment culture on people? But it's obviously also true that the easy availability of guns, including military-style assault weapons, is a contributing factor, and you can't keep that off the table. I had hoped they'd come to the table and say, everything is on the table."
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said LaPierre is "so extreme and so tone deaf that he actually helps the cause of us passing sensible gun legislation in the Congress. Look, he blames everything but guns: movies, the media, President Obama, gun-free school zones. You name it, and the video games, he blames them."
Obama has said he wants proposals on reducing gun violence that he can take to Congress in January, and after the Dec. 14 shootings, he called on the NRA to join the effort. The president has asked Congress to reinstate an assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 and pass legislation that would end a provision that allows people to purchase firearms from private parties without a background check. Obama also has indicated that he wants Congress to pursue the possibility of limiting high-capacity magazines.
If Obama's review is "just going to be made up of a bunch of people that, for the last 20 years, have been trying to destroy the Second Amendment, I'm not interested in sitting on that panel," LaPierre said.
Given the NRA's stand on new rules, Lieberman said that "what this does mean is that the kind of new regulation of guns that President Obama and Vice President Biden and a lot people would like to see enacted early next year is not going to happen easily. It's going to be a battle. But the president, I think, and vice president, are really ready to lead the fight. It's going to take the American people getting organized, agitated, and talking to their members of Congress."
LaPierre blamed "a media machine in this country that wants to blame guns every time something happens. I know there's an anti-Second Amendment industry in this country." He also said that "you can't legislate morality. Legislation works on the sane. Legislation works on the law-abiding."
The NRA plans to develop an emergency response program that would include using volunteers from the group's 4.3 million members to help guard children, and has named former Rep. Asa Hutchinson, R-Ark., as national director of the school program.
Hutchinson said the NRA's position was a "very reasonable approach" that he compared to the federal air marshal program that places armed guards on flights.
"Are our children less important to protect than our air transportation? I don't think so," said Hutchinson, who served as an undersecretary at the Department of Homeland Security when it was formed.
Hutchinson said schools should not be required to use armed security. LaPierre also argued that local law enforcement should have final say on how the security is put into place, such as where officers would be stationed.
Democratic lawmakers in Congress have become more adamant about the need for stricter gun laws since the shooting. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California is promising to push for a renewal of legislation that banned certain weapons and limited the number of bullets a gun magazine could hold to 10. NRA officials made clear the legislation is a nonstarter for them.
"It hasn't worked," LaPierre said. "Dianne Feinstein had her ban and Columbine occurred."
There also has been little indication from Republican leaders that they'll go along with any efforts to curb what kind of guns can be purchased or how much ammunition gun magazines can hold.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., noted that he had an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle in his home. He said America would not be made safer by preventing him from buying another one. As to gun magazine limits, he said he can quickly reload by putting in a new magazine.
"The best way to interrupt a shooter is to keep them out of the school, and if they get into the school, have somebody who can interrupt them through armed force," Graham said.
LaPierre also addressed other factors that he said contribute to gun violence in America, but he would not concede that the types of weapons being used are part of the problem.
He was particularly critical of states, which he said are not placing the names of people into a national database designed to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the dangerously mentally ill. He said some states are not entering names into the system and 23 others are only putting in a small number of records.
"So when they go through the national instant-check system, and they go to try to screen out one of those lunatics, the records are not even in the system," LaPierre said.
Worried buyers flock to Texas gun show
Fort Worth, Texas • A long line of firearm buyers pushed its way into the Lone Star Gun Show when it opened at 9 a.m. Saturday for a two-day run, prompting comparisons to eager Black Friday shoppers.
Vendors and customers said the crowds were motivated by fears that the White House will work to restrict assault weapons and curb gun-show sales after a gunman killed 20 children and six adults in Newtown, Conn.
Rod Balderman, who drove more than 250 miles from Houston to attend as a buyer, reported a 25 percent to 50 percent rise in the cost for many weapons since the Dec. 14 mass killing. He said it was unfortunate that the Newtown tragedy might lead to tighter gun laws.
Devonne Hart of Arlington, Texas, a former military police officer, said legislators should ban such unregulated private sales. He came to the show because he was curious about how the massacre would affect sales and prices.
"They are taking advantage of the situation," he said. "Prices are up. The NRA and the right wing are scaring people into buying guns."
Fort Worth Star-Telegram