NRA slams door on new gun curbs
America's largest gun rights lobby declared unwavering opposition to any new restrictions in the aftermath of the Connecticut primary school massacre, accusing the White House of trying to undermine the constitutional right to bear arms.
Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the influential National Rifle Association, said not a single gun regulation would make children safer.
And he criticised a "media machine" which he said blamed the gun industry for each new attack like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.
"Look, a gun is a tool. The problem is the criminal," Mr LaPierre said in a television interview.
He hardly backed down from his comments on Friday, when the NRA broke its week-long silence on the December 14 rampage at Sandy Hook that killed 20 children and six adults. The gunman, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, also killed his mother at their home and shot himself as police closed in at the school.
Mr LaPierre's assertion that guns and police officers in all schools would stop the next killer drew widespread scorn.
Democratic congressman Chris Murphy, whose district includes Newtown, called it "the most revolting, tone deaf statement I've ever seen".
A headline from the conservative New York Post summarised Mr LaPierre's initial presentation with the headline: "Gun Nut! NRA loon in bizarre rant over Newtown."
Yesterday Mr LaPierre told NBC's Meet The Press that only armed guards and police would make children safe.
"If it's crazy to call for putting police and armed security in our schools to protect our children, then call me crazy," he said. "I think the American people think it's crazy not to do it. It's the one thing that would keep people safe."
He asked Congress for money to put a police officer in every school and said the NRA would co-ordinate a national effort to put former military and police in schools as volunteer guards.
The NRA leader dismissed efforts to revive an assault weapons ban as a "phoney piece of legislation" built on lies and made it clear it was highly unlikely that the NRA could support any new gun regulations.
"You want one more law on top of 20,000 laws, when most of the federal gun laws we don't even enforce?" he said.
Mr LaPierre said another focus in preventing shootings was to lock up violent criminals and get the mentally ill the treatment they needed.
"The average guy in the country values his freedom, doesn't believe the fact he can own a gun is part of the problem, and doesn't like the media and all these high-profile politicians blaming him," he said.
Some politicians were incredulous, yet acknowledged that the political and fund-raising might of the NRA would make President Barack Obama's push for gun restrictions a struggle - particularly in getting new regulations approved in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, where many members have close ties to the gun-rights group.
"I have found the statements by the NRA over the last couple of days to be really disheartening, because the statements seem to not reflect any understanding about the slaughter of children (in Newtown)," said Senator Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent.
He said the NRA was right on some points about the causes of gun violence in America, "but it's obviously also true that the easy availability of guns, including military-style assault weapons, is a contributing factor, and you can't keep that off the table. I had hoped they'd come to the table and say, 'Everything is on the table'."
Senator Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said Mr LaPierre was "so extreme and so tone deaf" that he was making it easier to pass gun legislation.
"Look, he blames everything but guns: movies, the media, President Obama, gun-free school zones, you name it. And the video games, he blames them," he said.
But Mr Lieberman was less hopeful that politicians would approve new gun regulations next year.
"It's going to be a battle. But the president, I think, and vice president, are really ready to lead the fight," he said.
Mr Obama has said he wants proposals on reducing gun violence that he can take to Congress in January, and after the Connecticut shootings he called on the NRA to join the effort.
The president has asked Congress to reinstate the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 and pass legislation that would end a provision that allows people to buy firearms from private parties without a background check.
He also has indicated that he wants Congress to pursue the possibility of limiting high-capacity magazines.
But Mr LaPierre said if Mr Obama's review was "just going to be made up of a bunch of people that, for the last 20 years, have been trying to destroy the Second Amendment, I'm not interested in sitting on that panel".
The Second Amendment of the US Constitution guarantees the right to bear arms.
The NRA has tasked former congressman Asa Hutchinson, an Arkansas Republican, to lead a programme designed to use volunteers from the group's 4.3 million members to help guard children.
Mr Hutchinson, a former under secretary at the Department of Homeland Security when it was formed, said the NRA's position was a "very reasonable approach" that he compared to the air marshal programme that places armed guards on flights.
Mr LaPierre cited Israel as a model for the type of school security system the NRA envisaged.
"Israel had a whole lot of school shootings until they did one thing: They said, 'We're going to stop it' and they put armed security in every school and they have not had a problem since then," he said.