4:43 pm Dec. 23, 20122
Sen. Chuck Schumer was more than happy to have Wayne LaPierre, the combative head of the National Rifle Association, precede him on "Meet the Press" on Sunday morning.
"I think he's so extreme and so tone deaf that he actually helps the cause of us passing sensible gun legislation in the Congress," said Schumer, a longtime opponent of the N.R.A. who has pressed for some new reforms in the week since the tragic school shooting in Connecticut.
LaPierre was sitting for his first interview since the shooting, after refusing to take questions at a Friday press conference, in which he called for armed officers in every American school, and blamed the news media and entertainment industry for the problem of gun violence.
Those comments, after a week's silence by the N.R.A., were widely panned, even by some conservative outlets, and David Gregory asked what LaPierre thought of the reaction, flashing the New York Post 's "GUN NUT" cover.
"If it's crazy to call for armed officers in our schools to protect our children, then call me crazy," said LaPierre.
Gregory came prepared, pressing LaPierre why he was willing to try the uncertain proposal for armed guards—which failed to prevent the killing at Columbine in Colorado—but not proposals that include banning certain assault weapons or extended magazine clips.
Gregory even brought along some props.
"Here is a magazine for ammunition that carries 30 bullets," he said holding one up. "Now isn't it possible that, if we got rid of these, if we replaced them and said, well, you could only have a magazine that carries five bullets or ten bullets"—holding up a smaller magazine—"isn't it just possible that we can reduce the carnage in a situation like Newtown?"
"I don't believe that's going to make one difference," LaPierre said. "There are so many different ways to evade that, even if you had that. I know everybody in this town wants to argue about gun control. I don't think it's what will work."
Indeed, representatives from the N.R.A. fanned out across the Sunday shows, with the others mostly evading direct questions about gun control, and saying they're focused on addressing the mental health and school security aspects.
But LaPierre was more outspoken. Asked a couple of times whether he would support any new laws to regulate guns, LaPierre eventually said he did not. When he was asked about the criticism from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, LaPierre said the American public was on the N.R.A.'s side because "at the scene of the crime ... they know these politicians aren't there."
"You know the way it works up there?" he asked about New York City. "If you're rich and you're famous, you get your permit. If you're a .300 hitter with the Mets, you get a permit. If you're a celebrity, you get a permit. If you're a big developer, you get a permit. If you're a Wall Street executive, you get a permit. If you're one of the mayor's buddies, you get your permit."
(The Mets' only .300 hitter last year, David Wright, does in fact have a permit to keep a gun at his penthouse.)
"If you're the guy in the box out there at the scene of the crime, most in need of the protection, you're flat out of luck," LaPierre continued. "What the N.R.A.'s about, we're about the average guy."
A spokesman for Bloomberg, Marc LaVorgna said LaPierre "continues to show his stark disconnect from reality."
That's the hope for Schumer and Bloomberg, as they try to mobilize public opinion against the N.R.A.
"Trying to prevent shootings in schools without talking about guns is like trying to prevent lung cancer without talking about cigarettes," Schumer said. "And he is so doctrinaire and so adamant that I believe gun owners will turn against him as well. Look, he says the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. What about trying to stop the bad guy from getting the gun in the first place? That's common sense."
But some influential Republican legislators—many of whom double as gun owners—didn't seem to have turned just yet.
"My belief is that this is a problem where you try to get mass murderers off the street before they act, by better mental health detection," said Lindsey Graham, who said he keeps an AR-15 at his house. "You try to find ways to understand what makes them who they are. But I don't suggest we ban every movie with a gun in it, and every video game that's violent. And I don't suggest you take my right to buy an AR-15 away from me, because I don't think it will work.
"And I do believe better security in schools is a good place to start."