WASHINGTON — The National Rifle Association on Sunday forcefully stuck to its call for placing armed police officers and security guards in every school as the best way to avoid shootings such as the recent massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the largest gun rights lobbying organization, said the NRA would push Congress to pay for more school security guards and would coordinate a national effort to put former military and police offers in schools as volunteer guards.
“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 in a broadcast interview. “I think the American people think it's crazy not to do it. It's the one thing that would keep people safe.”
LaPierre also contended that any new efforts by Congress to regulate guns or ammunition would not prevent mass shootings.
His comments on NBC's “Meet the Press” reinforced the position that the NRA took on Friday when it broke its weeklong silence on the shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
That stand has described by some lawmakers as tone-deaf.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., says LaPierre blames everything but guns for a series of mass shootings in recent years.
“Trying to prevent shootings in schools without talking about guns is like trying to prevent lung cancer without talking about cigarettes,” Schumer said.
The NRA plans to develop an emergency response program that would include 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 local districts should make decisions about armed guards in schools.
“I've made it clear that it should not be a mandatory law, that every school has this. There should be local choice, but absolutely, I believe that protecting our children with an armed guard who is trained is an important part of the equation,” he told ABC's “This Week.”
LaPierre cited Israel as a model for the type of school security system the NRA envisions.
“"Israel had a whole lot of school shootings until they did one thing: They said ‘we're going to stop it,’ and they put armed security in every school and they have not had a problem since then,” he said.
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 non-starter 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.
Schumer said that he believes gun owners have even been taken aback by LaPierre's refusal to include additional gun regulation as part of an overall response to the Newtown massacre.
“He's turning people off. That's not where America is at and he's actually helping us,” Schumer said on NBC, where he appeared with Graham.