National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre fired back at his critics today, defending his proposal to put armed guards in every school in the country as a way to prevent future tragedies like the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that took the lives of 20 children and six adults.
"If it's crazy to call for armed officers in our schools to protect our children, then call me crazy," the head of the powerful gun lobby said today on NBC's "Meet the Press."
LaPierre and the NRA came under harsh criticism this week for their response to the Newtown, Conn., school shooting.
After keeping silent for a week, except for a release announcing that the organization would make "meaningful contributions" to the search for answers to the problem of gun violence, LaPierre held what critics described as a "tone deaf" press conference in which he blamed the media, video games and Hollywood for the recent shootings, and suggested that the answer to gun violence was more guns.
Gun control advocates argue that a federal assault weapons ban is necessary to curbing gun violence. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who helped pass an assault weapons ban in 1996 is renewing efforts to pass similar legislation as the original ban expired in 2004.
"I think that is a phony piece of legislation and I do not believe it will pass for this reason: it's all built on lies," LaPierre said today.
LaPierre and many pro-gun advocates like him argue that assault weapons bans aren't effective and that violent criminals are solely to blame.
In today's interview, LaPierre pointed out that the Columbine High School shooting occurred after the assault weapons ban passed, but he failed to mention that the shooters obtained the guns they used illegally though a gun show.
He also did not discuss the fact that there was an armed guard on duty at the school when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 13 people there before killing themselves.
Several senators watching LaPierre's interview had strong reactions.
"He says the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. What about stopping the bad guy from getting the gun in the first place?" said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who was also on the show, said that he open to discussing increased school security but warned against a quick rush to ban assault weapons.
"I don't suggest we ban every movie with a gun in it and every video that's violent and I don't suggest that you take my right buy an AR-15 away from me because I don't think it will work," Graham said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he didn't think having armed guards in schools was a good idea, though the Republican said he was "not commenting on the NRA proposal in particular."
"I am not someone who believes that having multiple, armed guards, in every school, is something that will enhance the learning environment, and that is our first responsibility inside a school, is the learning environment, you don't want to make this an armed camp for kids, I don't think that is a positive example for children," he said. "We should be able to figure out some other ways to enhance safety."
Earlier this week protesters from the group "Code Pink" snuck into the NRA press conference and held up a sign that read "NRA Blood on Your Hand."
Gun-control advocates like the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence have long been critical of the NRA, but some lawmakers who also back more stringent gun control have been reluctant to lash out at the NRA until the recent shootings at Newtown, Conn.
After the Aurora, Colo., movie theater shooting, when a gunman armed with an AR-15, two Glock pistols and a shotgun, killed 12 and wounded 70 others, even Feinstein lamented that it was a "bad time" to press for gun control.
She has since changed her tone, but her previous reluctance to tackle the issue shows just how powerful the NRA is in derailing any opposition gun ownership.
President Obama announced last week that he was creating a task force headed by Vice President Biden to offer workable policy solutions to the problem of gun violence by the end of January.
The president will likely face an uphill battle, as any proposed legislation will have to make its way through the House of Representatives, which is currently controlled by Republicans.
Many lawmakers, the president and the NRA have discussed a holistic solution that includes the examination potential problems with the mental health system in this country.
Mental health services have come under a great strain as local governments are forced to cut their budgets. As a result, the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors has estimated a loss of $4.35 billion to state funded mental health services.
- Politics & Government