11:37 am Dec. 21, 20124
WASHINGTON—"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," said Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, in a packed press conference this morning.
The N.R.A. had effectively been silent since the shooting massacre last week of 20 schoolchildren in Newtown, Connecticut, other than a formal statement announcing the organization's intention to make "meaningful contributions" to prevent such incidents in the future.
In the course of making remarks that were interrupted several times by protesters, LaPierre called for armed guards in schools, a national database of people with mental illnesses and restrictions on violent video games. He did not propose any restructions on the manufacture or sale of guns.
More than 100 reporters crowded into a downstairs conference room of the Willard Intercontinental Hotel to hear the organization's first comments, doing live shots in Spanish, Japanese and French as they waited for the proceedings to begin.
Near the beginning of his remarks, LaPierre said he wasn't going to be any questions, and took the opportunity to implicate and lecture the press for identifying and reporting on the dead shooter, saying the "next Adam Lanza" was already out there plotting an attack in order to gain their "wall-to-wall coverage."
"I can imagine the shocking headlines you'll print tomorrow," LaPierre said, predicting disdainfully that they'd just cast the N.R.A. as offering more guns as a solution to every problem.
LaPierre then proceeded to call for putting armed security guards in every American school.
"I call on Congress to act immediately to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every single school in this nation," LaPierre said.
As a second protester disrupted the proceedings by unfurling an anti-NRA banner in front of LaPierre ("We got another one," said a security guard as they moved in to wrestle the woman out of the room), one reporter, Terry Moran from "Nightline," piped up with a question.
"Mr. LaPierre, what's your reaction to that?" he asked, as LaPierre stood silently, waiting for the woman to be dragged out the back doors.
"Stick to the script," Moran said, tauntingly, as LaPierre resumed reading his prepared remarks.
"What if when Adam Lanza started shooting his way into Sandy Hook ... he had been confronted by qualified armed security?" LaPierre said.
"Is it so abhorrent to you that you'd rather continue to risk the alternative?" he added. "Is the press and the political class here in D.C. so consumed by fear and hatred of the N.R.A. and American gun owners that you're willing to accept a world" in which principals are forced to take on "evil monsters?"
"Here's another dirty little truth that the media try their best to conceal," said LaPierre, turning the subject to the "corrupting shadow industry" of violent video games. He rattled off the titles of some popular games like "Mortal Kombat" and "Grand Theft Auto." He also said his researchers had uncovered an online computer game called "Kindergarten Killers"—with rudimentary images from the game appearing on screens beside him—and wondered why reporters hadn't been able to find it.
He also denounced music videos that glorify violence.
"And then they all have the nerve to call it entertainment," LaPierre said. "But is that what it really is? Isn't fantasizing about killing people as a way to get your kicks, the worst form of pornography?"
After his remarks, when LaPierre yielded the floor to Asa Hutchinson, the former congressman who will be leading the group's new "National School Shield" effort.
"Mr. LaPierre are you going to taking questions?" shouted a reporter. "You're going to duck questions?"
"Thank you," LaPierre said with a wave.
Outside, before the press conference started, a couple dozen anti-N.R.A. protesters gathered on Pennsylvania Avenue, just a block from the White House.
Two protesters holding up masks sat in a makeshift bed, lined with the logos of companies sympathetic to the N.R.A.
"Baby, I got a subscription to a magazine," said a man holding up a LaPierre mask.
"Oh baby," said the woman, rubbing the barrel of his gun.
Jim Atwood, a 78-year-old in a brown leather jacket and a houndstooth fedora, stood quietly back from the larger group, holding a simple homemade sign that said STOP THE MADNESS, with a picture of one of the young victims from Newtown. Atwood, a retired Presbyterian pastor and a gun owner, said he'd been in the gun control movement for 38 years, ever since one of his parishioners was shot with a "Saturday night special" at a bowling alley, and said that this time it really did feel different.
"I think it's a tipping point," he said.
Atwood said he was a strong believer in the Second Amendment, but also believed in the "domestic tranquility" referred to in the Preamble.
"We don't have very much domestic tranquility these days," he said.
Atwood said he was "thrilled" with President Obama's response to the crisis, and with Mayor Michael Bloomberg's loud and sometimes lonely advocacy on the issue.
"Bloomberg has been a rock on this whole issue, just a tremendous force," he said.