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NRA’s answer to Newtown tragedy: Put armed guards in every school in America

This morning, the National Rifle Association (NRA) and its zealous leader, Wayne LaPierre, finally broke their silence over the slaughter of twenty children and seven adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.

At a press conference in the District of Columbia, not far from the White House, LaPierre said that immediate action needed to be taken to protect America’s schoolchildren. But he didn’t throw his lobby’s support behind an assault weapons ban, legislation to close the gun show loophole, or increased funding for mental illness treatment. Instead, he called for armed guards in the nation’s schools.

Now, the National Rifle Association knows that there are millions of qualified active and retired police; active, reserve and retired military; security professionals; certified firefighters and rescue personnel; and an extraordinary corps of patriotic, trained qualified citizens to join with local school officials and police in devising a protection plan for every school. We can deploy them to protect our kids now. We can immediately make America’s schools safer — relying on the brave men and women of America’s police force.

The budget of our local police departments are strained and resources are limited, but their dedication and courage are second to none and they can be deployed right now.

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

Reaction to the NRA’s press conference came swiftly. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, cofounder of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, blasted LaPierre’s media event and proposed course of action:

The NRA’s Washington leadership has long been out of step with its members, and never has that been so apparent as this morning. Their press conference was a shameful evasion of the crisis facing our country.

Instead of offering solutions to a problem they have helped create, they offered a paranoid, dystopian vision of a more dangerous and violent America where everyone is armed and no place is safe. Leadership is about taking responsibility, especially in times of crisis. Today the NRA’s lobbyists blamed everyone but themselves for the crisis of gun violence. While they promote armed guards, they continue to oppose the most basic and common sense steps we can take to save lives – not only in schools, but in our movie theaters, malls, and streets.

Enough.

As a country, we must rise above special interest politics. Every day, thirty-four Americans are murdered with guns. That’s why seventy-four percent of NRA members support common sense restrictions like criminal background checks for anyone buying a gun. It is time for Americans who care about the Second Amendment and reasonable gun restrictions to join together to work with the President and Congress to stop the gun violence in this country. Demand a plan.

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer was asked what he thought of LaPierre’s comments during a briefing that he and Nancy Pelosi held for the D.C. press corps. “I do not believe those remarks represent anywhere near a significant portion of America,” Hoyer replied. “I don’t believe, frankly, that they represent necessarily the majority of views of responsible members of the National Rifle Association who want guns to hunt, want guns to protect their home and their house, and our children.”

On Slog, David Goldstein estimates that LaPierre’s proposal to put armed guards in every school would cost at least $18 billion a year. He came up with that figure by calculating approximately how many schools the country has, and then looking at the average salary of a police officer:

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the national average annual cost of employing a police officer was $116,500 in 2007. Rounding up to $120,000 to account for inflation, that’s $120,000 times 150,000 officers: LaPierre’s proposal would cost taxpayers about $18 billion a year.

But budgets are tight — how to pay for it? Well, as the NRA likes to remind us, freedom isn’t free, and who better to pay this cost than the gun owners themselves? Various estimates place the number of civilian firearms in the US at about 250 million. So, $18 billion divided by 250 million guns: An annual license fee of about $75 per gun should adequately cover the expense of the NRA’s proposal to put armed police officers at every K-12 school in the U.S.

LaPierre stuck to his scripted remarks during the NRA’s media event. He did not take questions or explain how his “National School Shield Emergency Response Program” would be implemented, let alone funded. (An annual license fee on guns could supply the revenue needed, as suggested above, but LaPierre didn’t propose that.) His speech was interrupted several times by protesters, who had to be hauled out of the room by security. LaPierre did not acknowledge the protesters.

Besides calling for armed guards, LaPierre also ranted and railed at great length against violent video games and violent entertainment… as if video games represented a bigger threat to the safety of America’s youth than Bushmasters and Glocks, which are actual weapons that can kill people!

And here’s another dirty little truth that the media try their best to conceal: There exists in this country a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people. Through vicious, violent video games with names like Bulletstorm, Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat and Splatterhouse. And here’s one: it’s called Kindergarten Killers. It’s been online for ten years. How come my research department could find it and all of yours either couldn’t or didn’t want anyone to know you had found it?

Then there’s the blood-soaked slasher films like “American Psycho” and “Natural Born Killers” that are aired like propaganda loops on “Splatterdays” and every day, and a thousand music videos that portray life as a joke and murder as a way of life. And then they have the nerve to call it “entertainment.”

But is that what it really is? Isn’t fantasizing about killing people as a way to get your kicks really the filthiest form of pornography? In a race to the bottom, media conglomerates compete with one another to shock, violate and offend every standard of civilized society by bringing an ever-more-toxic mix of reckless behavior and criminal cruelty into our homes — every minute of every day of every month of every year.

Wow. Could it be more painfully obvious that the National Rifle Association is a front for gun manufacturers? What a dodge: blame violent video games for corrupting the minds of young people, but ignore everything that gun manufacturers have done to make it easier for people to acquire and carry deadly weapons that can kill a lot of people in a very short amount of time.

The existence of games like Grand Theft Auto or Mortal Kombat is not a secret. When Grand Theft Auto first came out, it made headlines, and there was a discussion about restricting its availability. I remember that coverage.

It is not true that our nation’s mass media has attempted to conceal the existence of violent video games or shield the makers of such games from criticism. Lawmakers such as Joe Lieberman and Jay Rockefeller have expressed concerns about violent video games for years, and have even gone so far as to propose legislation limiting the sale or distribution of graphic games. However, there is no solid evidence linking violent video games to violent acts.

As for “Kindergarten Killers”, that’s a very old Flash game which was created by an outfit that purposely posts shocking material on its website to offend people. The game was never popular and is no longer online.

Plenty of people find violent video games distasteful; I’m one of them. I don’t play first-person shooter games and never have. I just don’t find them enjoyable. I’d rather play classic real-time strategy titles like Age of Empires or Command & Conquer. But I know perfectly friendly and compassionate people who do play Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, Crysis, Halo, or countless similar franchises.

It’s possible that violent video games desensitize some people to actual violence. But a gamer does not have the ability to go out and cause carnage without a real weapon supplied by a gun manufacturer.

People don’t die or become physically injured as a result of playing a violent video game. But people do die as a result of mishandling their own guns. When a loaded gun goes off, it can kill. And accidental discharges of deadly weapons are unfortunately a common occurrence. We hear about such incidents all of the time.

LaPierre could have use his press conference today to throw the NRA’s weight behind increased funding of services to help the mentally ill. But he didn’t.

What he did say was this:

How many more copycats are waiting in the wings for their moment of fame — from a national media machine that rewards them with the wall-to-wall attention and sense of identity that they crave — while provoking others to try to make their mark?

A dozen more killers? A hundred? More? How can we possibly even guess how many, given our nation’s refusal to create an active national database of the mentally ill?

How is an “active national database” going to stop mentally ill people who want firearms from obtaining them at a gun show or from a store in a state with lax weapons acquisition regulations?

LaPierre’s press conference was so bad, it’s getting scathing reviews from all quarters. Even conservatives are saying it was counterproductive.

Perhaps filmmaker Michael Moore -  who once interviewed LaPierre’s predecessor Charlton Heston for his 2002 Academy Award-winning documentary Bowling for Columbine - had the best reaction. He called the NRA’s response to Newtown “the most deranged, delusional ‘press conference’ I’ve ever seen.”