Updated: 6:44 p.m. ET
In a press conference reflecting on last week's massacre in Newtown, Conn., the National Rifle Association's Wayne LaPierre today called on Congress to put armed law enforcement agents in every American school, insisting that guns in schools -- not tougher gun laws -- would most effectively protect children from school shootings.
LaPierre, who did not take any questions and whose remarks were interrupted twice by pro-gun control protesters, disdained the notion that stricter gun laws could have prevented "monsters" like Adam Lanza from committing mass shootings, and wondered why students, unlike banks, don't have the protection of armed officials. He also called for a "national database of the mentally ill."
"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," he said.
Twenty first-grade students were gunned down at their Connecticut elementary school last Friday, when 20-year-old Lanza reportedly opened fire in the school. Six adult faculty members were killed in his rampage, and Lanza also took his own life. Shortly before entering Sandy Hook Elementary School, Lanza is believed to have killed his mother, Nancy Lanza, in her bed. In the aftermath of the shootings, there has been much speculation as to the state of Adam Lanza's mental health, but no concrete evidence has been established that he was mentally ill.
In the aftermath of the shooting, the NRA stayed largely silent, making only a brief comment earlier this week when announcing today's press conference. In his remarks today, however, LaPierre vehemently defended the pro-gun agency against critics and offered up a solution of his own.
"We must speak for the safety of our nation's children," said LaPierre. "We care about our money, so we protect our banks with armed guards. American airports, office buildings, power plants, courthouses, even sports stadiums, are all protected by armed security. We care about our president, so we protect him with armed Secret Service agents. Members of Congress works in offices surrounded by Capitol police officers, yet when it comes to our most beloved innocent and vulnerable members of the American family -- our children -- we as a society leave them every day utterly defenseless. And the monsters and the predators of the world know it and exploit it."
"That must change now," argued LaPierre, moments before being interrupted by a protester carrying a large pink sign proclaiming that the "NRA is killing our kids." "The truth is that our society is populated by an unknown number of genuine monsters -- people so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and driven by demons that no sane person can possibly ever comprehend them. They walk among us every day. And does anybody really believe that the next Adam Lanza isn't planning his attack on a school he's already identified at this very moment?"
Alternately criticizing politicians, the media, and the entertainment industry, LaPierre argued that "the press and political class here in Washington [are] so consumed by fear and hatred of the NRA and America's gun owners" that they overlook what he claims is the real solution to the nation's recent surge in mass shootings -- and what, he said, could have saved lives last week.
"What if, when Adam Lanza started shooting his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday, he had been confronted by qualified, armed security?" he asked. "Will you at least admit it's possible that 26 innocent lives might have been spared? Is that so abhorrent to you that you would rather continue to risk the alternative?"
LaPierre called on Congress to put a police officer in every school in America, which according to a Slate analysis would cost the nation at least $5.4 billion. LaPierre recognized that local budgets are "strained," but urged lawmakers "to act immediately, to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every school." He offered up the NRA's unique "knowledge, dedication, and resources" to assist in efforts to train those forces, but made no mention of a fiscal contribution.
Columbine High School employed an armed guard, Neil Gardner, at the time of the 1999 school shootings. According to CNN, Gardner was eating lunch in his car when violence broke out in the school, and 13 people were killed.
Gun control advocates immediately decried LaPierre's comments, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the press conference 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," he said. "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."
On Twitter, Senator-elect Chris Murphy, D-Ct., called LaPierre's comments "the most revolting, tone-deaf statement I've ever seen."