THE most powerful gun-rights lobby in the United States wants to address gun violence by having an armed police officer in every school in the country.
Wayne LaPierre, of the National Rifle Association (NRA), also revealed former Republican Congressman Asa Hutchison was to lead a programme to develop a model security plan for schools that relied on armed volunteers.
His comments came exactly a week after a gunman killed 26 people at a school in Newtown, Connecticut, including 20 children aged six and seven.
And they followed a minute’s silence held in communities across the US to remember those killed in the tragedy. Thousands stopped outside Newtown’s Edmond Town Hall as 26 bells chimed for each of the victims.
It is the first time the NRA has made a full statement since the shooting, and the remarks came as pressure continues to mount on politicians for more measures to prevent gun violence.
But Mr LaPierre told a Washington news conference: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
At least two protesters interrupted the event, despite tight security. One man held up a large red banner that said “NRA killing our kids”. As the protesters were taken away by security, they shouted that guns in schools were not the answer.
The 4.3 million-member NRA may be facing its toughest challenge in the wake of national horror over last week’s killings by Adam Lanza, 20. Many of his victims were shot several times and at close range by a high-powered rifle.
Mr LaPierre said “the next Adam Lanza” was planning an attack on another school. He blamed the media, video games, films and music videos for exposing children to a violent culture day in and day out.
“In a race to the bottom, many conglomerates compete with one another to shock, violate, and offend every standard of civilised society, by bringing an even more toxic mix of reckless behaviour and criminal cruelty right into our homes,” he said.
“Some have tried to exploit tragedy for political gain [while] we have remained respectfully silent.”
He refused to take questions from the audience.
The NRA largely disappeared from public debate after the shootings in Newtown, choosing atypical silence as its strategy. It temporarily took down its
Facebook page and kept quiet on Twitter.
President Barack Obama has demanded “real action, right now” against gun violence and called on the NRA to join the effort. His administration has been moving quickly, after several congressional gun-rights supporters said they would consider new laws to control firearms.
Mr Obama has said he wants proposals on reducing gun violence that he can take to Congress by January, and he put vice-president Joe Biden, a gun-control advocate with decades of experience in the Senate, in charge of the effort.
Mr Obama said in a video released yesterday that the White House had received an outpouring of support for stricter gun laws over the past week. “We hear you,” he said.
A “We the People” section on the White House website allows the public to submit petitions. Nearly 200,000 have urged Mr Obama to address gun control in one petition, and petitions related to gun violence have amassed more than 400,000 signatures.
At the same time, however, gun shops across the US have reported higher sales, including of assault weapons. A spike in gun sales is not uncommon after mass shootings.
Mr Obama has already asked Congress to reinstate an assault-weapons ban that expired in 2004 and pass legislation that would end a provision allowing people to buy firearms from private parties without a background check.
The president has also indicated he wants Congress to pursue the possibility of limiting high-capacity magazines, which the gunman used in last week’s shooting.
Mr Obama wants to build on a rare national mood after years of hesitation by politicians to take on the issue of gun violence – and the NRA.
“I’ve been doing this for 17 years, and I’ve never seen something like this in terms of response,” said Brian Malte, of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, based in Washington.
“The whole dynamic depends on whether the American public and people in certain states have had enough.”
A Pew Research Centre report has shown the Newtown shootings have led to more discussion about gun policy on social media than previous rampages. It says users advocating gun control were more numerous than those defending current laws.
Legislators in California and New York, most of them Democrats, plan a push to tighten what are already some of the most stringent state gun-control laws.
Meanwhile, Republicans in Oklahoma, Tennessee, South Carolina and Florida want to make it easier for teachers and other adults to have weapons in schools.