Washington – The nation's largest gun-rights lobby called Friday for armed police officers to be posted in every American school to stop the next killer "waiting in the wings."
The National Rifle Association broke its silence on last week's shooting rampage at a Connecticut elementary school that left 26 children and staff dead.
"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," the group's top lobbyist, Wayne LaPierre, said at a Washington news conference.
LaPierre said "the next Adam Lanza," the man responsible for last week's mayhem, is planning an attack on another school.
"How many more copycats are waiting in the wings for their moment of fame from a national media machine that rewards them with wall-to-wall attention and a sense of identity that they crave, while provoking others to try to make their mark," LaPierre said. "A dozen more killers, a hundred more? How can we possibly even guess how many, given our nation's refusal to create an active national database of the mentally ill?"
He blamed video games, movies 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 civilized society, by bringing an even more toxic mix of reckless behavior and criminal cruelty right into our homes," LaPierre said.
He refused to take any questions after speaking. Though security was tight, two protesters were able to interrupt LaPierre's speech, holding up signs that blamed the NRA for killing children. Both were escorted out, shouting that guns in schools are not the answer.
LaPierre announced that former Rep. Asa Hutchison, R-Ark., will lead an NRA program that will develop a model security plan for schools that relies on armed volunteers.
The 4.3 million-member NRA largely disappeared from public debate after the shootings in Newtown, Conn., choosing atypical silence as a strategy as the nation sought answers after the rampage. The NRA temporarily took down its Facebook page and kept quiet on Twitter.
The reactions of parents, teachers and school administrators ranged from hesitation to anger.
Superintendent Hank Grishman of the Jericho, N.Y., schools on Long Island said he is outraged by the idea. He says putting more guns in schools won't make children safer.
"Their solution to resolve the issue around guns is to put more guns in the equation?" said Girshman, an educator for 44 years. "If anything it would be less safe for kids. You would be putting them in the midst of potentially more gunfire."
Parent and community activist Helen Gym in Philadelphia believes the NRA's proposal is "extraordinarily opportunistic." Philadelphia schools have debated and rejected the use of armed guards or police officers in its city schools. The district, with about 146,000 students in nearly 250 schools, instead relies on unarmed school police.
The goal is to de-escalate violence, Gym said. "This is not an Old West shootout," she said. "We're talking about an elementary school."
There are an estimated 10,000 school resource officers, most of them armed and employed by local police departments, currently in the nation's schools, according to Mo Canady, executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers.
Canady said these officers help bridge the gap between the schools and police, and often develop a close enough relationship with parents and children that they feel comfortable coming forward with information that could prevent a threat. He said that if the proposal is pursued, it should include be sworn law enforcement officers trained to work in schools.
"I don't believe that just putting an armed guard in there is going to make the school safer," he
Since the slayings, President Barack Obama has demanded "real action, right now" against U.S. gun violence and called on the NRA to join the effort. Moving quickly after several congressional gun-rights supporters said they would consider new legislation to control firearms, the president said this week he wants proposals to reduce gun violence that he can take to Congress by January.
Obama has already asked Congress to reinstate an assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 and pass legislation that would stop people from purchasing firearms from private sellers without a background check. Obama also has indicated he wants Congress to pursue the possibility of limiting high-capacity magazines.
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.