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NRA Rejects Calls for New Gun Laws, Advocates Armed Guards in Schools

December 21, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
Since the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., the NRA has been the subject of criticism, but its leaders hadn't made any public statement. The group broke its silence in Washington when NRA leader Wayne LaPierre reacted to the attack. Ray Suarez gets a response to the NRA's address from Mark Glaze of Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: And we return to the aftermath of the shootings in Newtown, Conn., a week ago today.

Ray Suarez begins our coverage of the latest developments.

RAY SUAREZ: A cold rain fell this morning in Newtown, Conn., as townspeople and officials gathered at City Hall for a moment of silence.

At 9:30, a bell rang 26 times, once for each of the 20 children and six adults killed one week ago at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Mourners also gathered again at funerals and at makeshift memorials.

BEN TOBY, Newtown, Conn.: I feel as though the first few days after this happened was really a feeling of numbness and shock. But now that’s lifting a little bit, and the reality of it is setting in, and it’s very, very painful.

RAY SUAREZ: At the White House, President Obama observed a moment of silence with his staff, and church bells tolled across the country.

The National Cathedral in Washington chimed 28 times for the school victims and for the shooter, Adam Lanza, and his mother, Nancy Lanza.

Religious leaders at the observance called for Congress to act on gun violence in the wake of the tragedy.

MICHAEL LIVINGSTON, former president, National Council of Churches: If the killing of these 20 children will not move us to enact meaningful legislation that values God-given human life over an amendment crafted for a time and a nation that bears no resemblance to our own, then there is little hope for us.

RAY SUAREZ: In a new video, the president said nearly 200,000 people have signed a petition on the White House website calling for new gun laws.

Underscoring that plea, a gunman killed three people today west of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He was killed later in a shoot-out with state troopers.

Since the attack, the NRA has been the subject of heavy criticism, but its leaders had refused to do any interviews before this weekend, including the NewsHour.

The group broke its near silence in Washington, D.C., this morning. Vice president Wayne LaPierre wouldn’t answer any questions, but he read a nearly 25-minute-long statement that called for armed guards in every school.

Here are excerpts of what LaPierre said. He was interrupted twice by protesters.

WAYNE LAPIERRE, executive vice president, National Rifle Association: The National Rifle Association, four million mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, join the nation in horror, outrage, grief, and earnest prayer for the families of Newtown, Conn., who have suffered such an incomprehensible loss as a result of this unspeakable crime.

For 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, starting today, in a way that we know works?

The only way to answer that question is to face the truth. Politicians pass laws for gun-free school zones. They issue press releases bragging about them. They post signs advertising them. And, in doing so, they tell every insane killer in America that schools are the safest place to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk.

When it comes to our most beloved, innocent and vulnerable members of the American family, our children, we as a society leave them every day utterly defenseless, and the monsters and the predators of the world know it and exploit it.

That must change now.

PROTESTER: NRA, stop killing our children.

WAYNE LAPIERRE: Our society is populated by an unknown number of genuine monsters, people that are so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and driven by demons that no sane person can ever possibly comprehend them.

They walk among us every single day. And does anybody really believe that the next Adam Lanza isn’t planning his attack on a school he’s already identified at this very moment?

Rather than face their own moral failings, the media demonizes lawful gun owners, amplify their cries for more laws and fill the national media with misinformation and dishonest thinking that only delay meaningful action and all but guarantee that the next atrocity is only a news cycle away.

The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. You know, five years ago, after the Virginia Tech tragedy, when I said we should put armed security in every school, the media called me crazy.

But what if — what if, when Adam Lanza started shooting his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday, he’d been confronted by qualified armed security?

Will you at least admit it’s possible that 26 little kids — that 26 innocent lives might have been spared that day? Is it so abhorrent to you that you’d rather continue to risk the alternative?

I call on Congress today to act immediately to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every single school in this nation, and to do it now, to make sure that blanket safety is in place when our kids return to school in January.

The NRA is going to bring all its knowledge, all its dedication and all its resources to develop a model national school shield emergency response program for every single school in America that wants it. From armed security to building design and access control, to information technology, to student and teacher training, this multifaceted program will be developed by the very best experts in the field.

RAY SUAREZ: We get a response to the NRA’s comments now.

It comes from Mark Glaze, the director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a coalition of more than 800 mayors who support some gun control initiatives. It’s chaired by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino.

Well, there was a lot in that address, 25 minutes long. But it might be boiled down into one statement: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

What was your response to Wayne LaPierre’s message today?

MARK GLAZE, executive director, Mayors Against Illegal Guns: Well, generally, I was surprised.

And I have been watching the NRA for a long time. My dad was a gun dealer in Colorado, among other things. And, you know, I sort of know that NRA members are basically mainstream folks with mainstream views on guns. And the NRA is normally a smart organization, or thought to be, but today’s statement is probably the best evidence I have seen that the organization has a serious political positioning problem.

It was incoherent. It was factually incorrect. And it was so politically tone-deaf to suggest to a nation that is sort of rising up for action that the answer to too many guns in our society is to put an armed guard in the classroom. I think that Wayne LaPierre has a problem, not only with the country, but also within his organization.

RAY SUAREZ: He pointed out that, when you put up a sign that says gun-free school or this is a gun-free school zone, that you are telling anybody who might want to commit an armed crime there that they can come on in and no one will shoot back.

MARK GLAZE: I must tell you, I mean, he was speaking in English, but, beyond that, I have no idea what he was talking about.

The idea that people are looking to shoot up schoolchildren simply because they see a sign saying that there are no guns there is beyond comprehension. And it’s beyond comprehension to most NRA members. I think important for our mayors to keep pointing out to people that this is not about the NRA membership.

We had Frank Luntz do a poll a couple years ago and then again repeated it just earlier this year, and he found that 74 percent of NRA members think that every person in this country who wants to buy a gun should have to pass a background check. Wayne LaPierre fights that tooth and nail.

They think that — you know, 70 percent of them believe, if you are on a terror watch list, and therefore can’t get on a plane with you and me, they shouldn’t be able to go to a licensed dealer and buy a gun. But, today, they can.

The mainstream of the NRA is people like my dad, who want to have guns because they have a good time going out to shoot, because they want to hunt, because they want to be self-reliant, and be able to defend themselves in their homes. That’s not where the NRA is today.

RAY SUAREZ: I haven’t seen the polling numbers yet, but I would guess that you would get a much higher result if you asked people, do you think it’s reasonable to have security guards armed in schools?

MARK GLAZE: Sure. I mean, with the situation being what it is today, when there are as many guns as there are people in our society, people want to do anything to keep their kids safe.

My son is about the age of kids in that school, one of whom was shot 12 times. But the circularity of the argument that the NRA has been making for a generation, I think, is coming home to — coming home to people. The NRA’s Washington lobbyists, because it is their business model, have been systemically chipping away at reasonable gun regulations for a generation.

For example, just last year, inspired by the NRA, the Virginia legislature got rid of a one-gun-a-month rule. That’s 12 guns a year that you can buy, by the way. So, by eradicating basically commonsense rules like that, that are modest restrictions, they have given us a society in which there are so many guns in the criminal marketplace that you have got to find some way to deal with it.

The NRA then responds by saying, well, there are so many guns in the criminal marketplace, we need to put armed guards in schools and make sure everybody can carry everywhere. They created this problem in significant part. And more guns are not the answer.

RAY SUAREZ: A lot of Mr. LaPierre’s address today had to do with American culture, with movies, with violence on television, with violent video games. If I talk to a lot of your member mayors, might they find a lot of common ground with him on that?

MARK GLAZE: Well, there’s no question that we need, for example, better mental health treatment in this country.

There is, you know, no question that violent video games are something that those of us who are parents have a problem with, and maybe we should have a rating system where, you know, some mechanism for making sure that kids aren’t unduly influenced for them.

But think about this. In the United Kingdom, where they, by the way, watch the same movies and see the same video games that we do, murders in any given year are a few dozen. They maybe top out at 50 or so. In the United States in any given year, recently, there has been 11,000 to 12,000 murders every year. And it is not just because we have a different population size.

It’s because we make it exceptionally easy for almost anyone to get any gun they want with about three mouse clicks.

RAY SUAREZ: Mark Glaze, thanks for joining us.

MARK GLAZE: Thanks for having me.

JEFFREY BROWN: You can watch the NRA’s complete address online, and compare U.S. gun policy with that of other nations in a post from the Council on Foreign Relations.