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December 21, 2012

NRA calls for armed guards at schools

The nation’s largest gun lobby, which has been largely silent since
the shootings that killed 26 people at a Connecticut elementary school
a week ago, called Friday for Congress to require armed security
guards in every school, saying it would help prevent such acts of mass
violence from happening again.

In a defiant speech, Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, said Friday the organization would use its resources to build what he called a "national school shield emergency program." He
said the NRA's program would be led by former Arkansas congressman and U.S. Attorney Asa Hutchinson, a Republican.

"What if when Adam Lanza started shooting his way into Sandy Hook he'd
been confronted by qualified, armed security?" LaPierre said. "Twenty
six innocent lives might have been spared that day."

LaPierre blamed the violence on people he called "monsters," and said that leaving schools unarmed was the equivalent of inviting new attacks.

He and other NRA officials refused to take any questions on its proposal, and would not say whether they are working with the White House on its plan. President Barack Obama asked Vice President Joe Biden to head up efforts to address gun violence.

Americans have seen other horrifying mass shootings in recent years, but the age, innocence and vulnerability of the Newtown, Conn. children have prompted even some strong advocates of gun rights to reconsider their position, particularly on military-style assault guns and large-capacity magazine clips that allow shooters to fire multiple rounds.

LaPierre's speech was greeted as "cynical" by gun control advocates. Such a plan has already been tried, "and it did not work," said Josh Sugarmann, executive director of the Violence Policy Center, and a native of Newtown, Conn.

"In fact there were TWO armed law enforcement agents present at Columbine High School during the assault by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold that left 15 dead and 23 wounded. They twice engaged and fired at Eric Harris in an effort to stop the shooting, but were unsuccessful because they were outgunned by the assault weapons wielded by the two teens."

In a video Friday morning, Obama urged Americans to call Congress "as many times as it takes" to push for gun restrictions. His remarks were in a video response to the record number of "We The People" petitions that have been submitted to the White House since the shootings.

Americans have a long history of gun ownership, Obama said, and the Second Amendment guarantees the right to bear arms. He said he found it encouraging that many gun owners stepped forward in recent days to say that there are measures that can be taken to balance constitutional rights and safety.

He also said he would do everything in his power as president to address safety, mental health issues and the culture of violence that could have contributed to the tragedy.

"If there’s even one thing we can do as a country to protect our children, we have a responsibility to try," the president said.

Obama earlier this week called on Congress to ban the sale of military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips as he announced that Vice President Joe Biden would lead an effort to develop "concrete proposals" to stem gun violence. Obama said he expects action in January.

The White House said Obama supports legislation reintroduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. Feinstein hopes to revive an assault-weapon ban that expired in 2004. The White House also said that the president supports ending a loophole that allowed Americans to skirt federal background checks by purchasing assault weapons at gun shows, where standard background checks may be waived.

One reason that last week’s killing spree was so deadly is that gunman Adam Lanza had large-capacity magazine clips that allowed him to fire multiple rounds before having to reload.

A Pew Research Center survey this week found that the public’s attitudes toward gun control have shown modest change since the Connecticut shooting. Of the Americans surveyed this week, 49 percent say it is more important to control gun ownership, while 42 percent say it is more important to protect the right of Americans to own guns.

It marks the first time since Obama took office that more Americans prioritize gun control than the right to own guns, Pew said. A survey in July following a shooting at a Colorado movie theater had narrower margins. At the time, 47 percent of people surveyed said it was more important to control gun ownership, compared to 46 percent who said it was more important to protect gun rights.

Regardless, Pew found that support for gun control remains lower than before Obama took office. In April 2008, 58 percent of those surveyed said it was more important to control gun ownership. At the time, just 37 percent prioritized protecting gun rights.

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