Ryan Holeywell is a staff writer at GOVERNING.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The National Rifle Association called for Congress to immediately pass legislation to fund armed security guards in every school in the United States as a way to help prevent shootings like last week's attack in Newtown, Conn.
The press conference, interrupted several times by anti-NRA protesters, was the first by the organization since last week's shooting. NRA officials said they waited to address the tragedy out of respect for victims' families.
NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre didn't provide an estimate of how much the ambitious plan might cost, but adding one full-time security guard at each of the country's approximate 100,000 schools would likely cost billions of dollars. It's an expense LaPierre says the feds can afford. He called on Congress to quickly appropriate funding to launch the program.
"(F)or all the noise and anger directed at us over the past week, no one -- nobody --has addressed the most important pressing and immediate question we face: how do we protect our children right now?" LaPierre said.
LaPierre noted that places like banks, airports, courts and stadiums are guarded with armed personnel and argued that schools warranted similar protections.
But Daniel Domenech, head of the American Association of School Administrators, says that armed guards or offices might promote a sense of security at schools, but they wouldn't necessarily be able to avert an attack.
Domenech noted that in 1998, while he served as superintendent of schools in Fairfax County, Va., a student was fatally shot in the parking lot of a high school. The school had a police officer on campus, but the officer was not near the site of the shooting when it occurred, he said.
In the case of the shooting in Newtown, Conn., Domenech speculated that an armed guard likely would have been shot dead along with others as attacker Adam Lanza entered the school. "It's not the solution to the problem we have at hand," Domenech said. "The solution we have is much broader than an armed guard at every school. I think we have to look at an assault weapons ban and we also have to look at the mental health issue."
LaPierre also used the press conference to deliver a strong rebuke of the media. He said that by reporting on mass shootings, journalist "reward" murderers. LaPierre was also critical of video games, movies and music videos that portray violence.
NRA President David Keene called Friday's comments "the beginning of a serious conversation." Keene and LaPierre refused to take questions from reporters who attended the event.
Daniel Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence said in a statement that the NRA's response was "not indicative of the conversation the American public wants to have."
Gross encouraged NRA members to join his organization in making sure gun violence ends. "We are all Americans and we agree we are better than this," he said.
The White House has not responded directly to the NRA's comments but is reiterating President Obama's call for Congress to ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips.