WASHINGTON — An unwavering National Rifle Association said Sunday that not a single new gun regulation would make children safer, that “a media machine” relishes blaming the gun industry for each new attack like the one that occurred at a Connecticut elementary school, and that a White House task force on gun violence may try to undermine the Second Amendment.
“Look, a gun is a tool. The problem is the criminal,” said Wayne LaPierre, the CEO of the nation's largest gun-rights lobby, in a nationally broadcast television interview.
LaPierre hardly backed down from his comments Friday, when the NRA broke its weeklong silence on the shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
LaPierre's assertion that guns and police officers in all schools are what will stop the next killer drew widespread scorn, and even some NRA supporters in Congress are publicly disagreeing with the proposal. Rep. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., called it “the most revolting, tone deaf statement I've ever seen.” A headline from the New York Post summarized LaPierre's initial presentation before reporters with the headline: “Gun Nut! NRA loon in bizarre rant over Newtown.”
LaPierre told NBC's “Meet the Press” on Sunday that only those armed guards and police would make kids safe.
“If it's crazy to call for putting police and armed security in our schools to protect our children, then call me crazy,” LaPierre said. “I think the American people think it's crazy not to do it. It's the one thing that would keep people safe.”
He asked Congress for money to put a police officer in every school. He also said the NRA would coordinate a national effort to put former military and police officers in schools as volunteer guards.
The NRA leader dismissed efforts to revive the assault weapons ban as a “phony piece of legislation” that's built on lies. He made clear it was highly unlikely that the NRA could support any new gun regulations.
“You want one more law on top of 20,000 laws, when most of the federal gun laws we don't even enforce?” he said.
LaPierre said another focus in preventing shootings is to lock up violent criminals and get the mentally ill the treatment they need.
“The average guy in the country values his freedom, doesn't believe the fact he can own a gun is part of the problem, and doesn't like the media and all these high-profile politicians blaming him,” he said.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., noted that he had an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle in his home. He said America would not be made safer by preventing him from buying another one. As to gun magazine limits, he said he can quickly reload by putting in a new magazine.
“The best way to interrupt a shooter is to keep them out of the school, and if they get into the school, have somebody who can interrupt them through armed force,” Graham said.
Some lawmakers were incredulous, yet acknowledged that the political and fundraising might of the NRA would make President Barack Obama's push for gun restrictions a struggle.
“I have found the statements by the NRA over the last couple of days to be really disheartening, because the statements seem to not reflect any understanding about the slaughter of children” in Newtown, said Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent.
He said the NRA is right in some of the points it makes about the causes of gun violence in America.
“But it's obviously also true that the easy availability of guns, including military style assault weapons, is a contributing factor, and you can't keep that off the table. I had hoped they'd come to the table and say, everything is on the table,” Lieberman said.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said LaPierre was “so extreme and so tone deaf” that he was making it easier to pass gun legislation.
“Look, he blames everything but guns: movies, the media, President Obama, gun-free school zones, you name it. And the video games, he blames them,” Schumer said.
But Lieberman didn't seem to be buying it. He said the NRA's stand on new gun rules means passing legislation next year won't happen easily.
“It's going to be a battle. But the president, I think, and vice president, are really ready to lead the fight,” he said.
Obama has said he wants proposals on reducing gun violence that he can take to Congress in January, and after the Dec. 14 shootings, he called on the NRA to join the effort. The president has asked Congress to reinstate an assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 and pass legislation that would end a provision that allows people to purchase firearms from private parties without a background check. Obama also has indicated that he wants Congress to pursue the possibility of limiting high-capacity magazines.
If Obama's review is “just going to be made up of a bunch of people that, for the last 20 years, have been trying to destroy the Second Amendment, I'm not interested in sitting on that panel,” LaPierre said.