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Newtown parents reject NRA plan

NEWTOWN, Conn. When Adam Lanza started his lethal attack on Sandy Hook Elementary School, Andrei Nikitchyuk's eight year-old son and another third grader were on their way to the principal's office. It was their turn to bring the daily attendance sheet to the front office, near where principal Dawn Hochsprung and psychologist Mary Sherlach would become the first casualties inside the school.

"When they got close to the office, they heard the shots fired, my son saying that the bullets were flying by him," Nikitchyuk recalled in an interview with CBS News. "I don't think he saw the bullets, but probably he saw the hits in the wall next to them."

Within moments, second grade teacher Abbey Clements pulled the boys into her classroom, where she had already hidden 19 children behind a wall, and locked the door.

"She really is a hero, and we are indebted to her," Nikitchyuk said. "She saved those two kids."

Nikitchyuk's son, nicknamed Bear, is his third child to attend Sandy Hook Elementary, following the path of his two older sisters. As the whole suburban town of 28,000 residents continues to struggle with the shock and grief of the shooting spree that claimed the lives 20 first-graders, 6 adults, and the killer's mother, Nikitchyuk has channeled his emotions into action for greater gun control.

"I will do whatever is in my power to change the situation," he said. "What I don't understand is how the gun manufacturing lobby can argue with a tragedy like this. I don't know how they are looking in the faces of their children. I would like them to make personal statements that they will do whatever it takes to make sure that our children are safe. I want to tell Wall Street to not expect the same type profits of arms manufacturers like they had before."

Nikitchyuk, who immigrated from Russia 22 years ago, is a former Soviet military officer who was trained to fire the Russian-made AK-47 machine gun (sold in U.S. under the trade name Saiga). CBS News has reported that Adam Lanza had a Saiga shotgun in the trunk of the car he drove to the school - the only one of four guns he possessed that he did not bring inside.

"Why are we allowing sales of weapons as terrible as this in this country?" Nikitchyuk asked. "Can you tell me what sport could use such a weapon. If you want to use guns for hunting, that's one thing. You don't need an AK 47."

Lanza committed the 26 murders at the school with a .223 caliber Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle and emptied at least three 30-bullet magazines. He also carried a Sig Sauer 9mm pistol (the same model issued to Secret Service agents), and a Glock 10mm semi-automatic pistol (issued to park rangers to shot wild game), which he used to kill himself once police arrived on the scene.

"This is insanity," said Nikitchyuk. "We have an escalation of weapons in this country. This is a civilian country. Why do we give these kind of military-grade munitions in the hands of people that are as unstable as that person was?"

On Tuesday Nikitchyuk went public by attending a news conference at the Capitol, in Washington, along with many families victimized by other mass shootings, from Columbine High School in 1999 to the Aurora movie massacre this past summer. The event was organized by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Nikitchyuk later attended a White House meeting with Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett.

"We know that the President is committed," he said.

Nikitchyuk appealed to pro-gun rights members of Congress to support the President's proposals to ban the sale of assault weapons and gun magazines that hold more than ten bullets, while expanding background checks to all guns buyers, including at gun shows.

"There is nothing wrong about changing your opinion when you have a really strong evidence. What can be stronger than what happened in Sandy Hook?" Nikitchyuk said. "As a country, we cannot move forward unless we change our gun laws."

On Friday National Rifle Association CEO and executive vice president Wayne LaPierre, in a statement to the press, hit back against calls for stricter gun laws that have been raised since the Sandy Hook shooting, arguing that "gun-free'" zones actually made schools less safe by inviting armed criminals. He called for an armed police officer or guard to be placed inside every elementary, middle and high school in the United States.

Nikitchyuk criticized the proposal. "Do you really want to have a shootout like in O.K. Corral in our schools?" he told CBS News. "Where will you find the money in the budget for the additional policemen? Where will you find money in the budget for bullet-proof windows and doors? Do we want a prison system in place of our schools? They will be locked in, right, just like that, and everyone will be afraid of everyone. Why are we doing that?

"What we are being told is, to stay safe I actually need to buy a gun. Why? If nobody has guns, no one needs guns. But when people shoot at you, supposedly you will be safer by owning a gun? It's total nonsense."

Nikitchyuk is not the only Newtown parent expressing doubts about the NRA proposal.

"In theory it's a good idea," said Desiree Vaiuso, the mother of an nine-year-old girl who escaped the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre. "But to really completely train everyone properly how to respond in a situation like this - I mean, the police department spent years training their people to do it right. Teachers and principals have so many other things to worry about that gun training is not something also that should be put on their plate."

In an interview with CBS News, Viauso said her opinion is still evolving.

"A friend of mine just a few moments on Facebook said - even the armed officers that will be there at the school, they'll be the first ones to go," she said. "Our town has I'm sure varying opinions just like everywhere else in the nation."

Viauso told her daughter there will be a police officer in school when she returns to school in January.

"She said, 'Well that makes me feel safe.' But the smaller children might be afraid," Viauso said.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten has described the call to station guards with guns at schools "both irresponsible and dangerous."

In a written statement issued Friday, Weingarten said, "Schools must be safe sanctuaries, not armed fortresses. Anyone who would suggest otherwise doesn't understand that our public schools must first and foremost be places where teachers can safely educate and nurture our students."

Desiree Viauso told CBS News that before the Sandy Hook shooting, "I was an NRA supporter. Now, I am not so sure."

Rodney Hawkins and Sean Herbert contributed to this story.

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