In the wake of the Newtown shootings, school districts across the country are hiring armed guards to patrol the hallways of their schools. Meanwhile, in Harrold, Texas, teachers are encouraged to carry concealed handguns. NBC's Charles Hadlock reports.
Gun-control advocates responded with outrage and disbelief Friday after the National Rifle Association called for armed guards in every school and blamed music, movies and video games for firearms violence.
While some people in Newtown, Conn., said they supported the idea of police with guns in their schools, critics said a volunteer force was impractical at best, dangerous at worst.
"The last thing we need are the George Zimmermans of the world patrolling our schools," said Kristen Rand, legislative director of the Violence Policy Center, referring to the neighborhood watch volunteer charged with killing unarmed teen Trayvon Martin in Florida.
The slaughter at Sandy Hook Elementary School last week has prompted some gun-rights advocates to soften their position, and there was speculation that the NRA might put forth some type of concession.
But NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre -- who will appear Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" -- did not indicate the group would support new restrictions.
In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the National Rifle Association held a news conference in Washington and blamed the media and video games for cultivating a culture of violence.
Defiant NRA leader rejects gun controls, asks to put police in schools
"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,'' he said, roughly outlining plans for an NRA-sponsored program to train and certify volunteers to protect schools from "the next Adam Lanza."
Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said he was at a loss for words after hearing the proposal.
"I don’t even know where to begin," he said on msnbc. "As a supporter of the Second Amendment and a supporter of the NRA — even though I’m not a member of the NRA — I just found it very haunting and very disturbing that our country now is talking about arming our teachers and our principals in classrooms."
Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, D-N.J., said he was stunned by LaPierre's comments.
"It is beyond belief that following the Newtown tragedy, the National Rifle Association's leaders want to fill our communities with guns and arm more Americans," he said in a statement.
"The NRA points the finger of blame everywhere and anywhere it can, but they cannot escape the devastating effects of their reckless comments and irresponsible lobbying tactics. The NRA leadership is wildly out of touch with its own members, responsible gun owners, and the American public who want to close dangerous loopholes and enact common-sense gun safety reform."
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the press conference "a shameful evasion" of the gun crisis, devoid of soul-searching.
"They offered a paranoid, dystopian vision of a more dangerous and violent America where everyone is armed and no place is safe," he said.
In Newtown, where funerals for the Sandy Hook victims were still going on, opinion was divided.
"I think that's a great idea," Elaine Bartell said of LaPierre's armed-guard proposal. "I would feel much safer, and children would be protected."
Msnbc's Thomas Roberts talks to a political power panel that includes former RNC Chairman Michael Steele to get reactions to the NRA news conference on gun control.
Mary Fernandes, a mother, said an increase in guns is the last thing schools need.
"I think it's sad that it's come to this state. We need do something about the gun control and I don't think that [armed guards] is the answer," she said. "I don't believe people need guns in their homes."
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Dennis van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, told NBC News the idea “that there be a policeman in every building” deserves to be part of a wide-ranging discussion about how to protect schoolchildren from bullets, but he scoffed at LaPierre’s call for volunteers packing heat.
“We have 90,000 [school] buildings in America, and you want to volunteers to come and have a gun at the school?” he said, noting that many schools already have armed safety officers. “When somebody has an assault rifle and blows out a window with it, you can’t stop that.”
Gun-rights advocates said LaPierre struck the right tone in his hotly anticipated announcement – the powerful lobbying group’s first comments since the Sandy Hook tragedy.
Robert Farago, publisher of a popular blog called TheTruthAboutGuns.com, said he did "a good job putting forth a positive solution to the problem of spree killing in schools."
He was disappointed, however, that LaPierre did not explicitly say the NRA would fight any proposed assault-weapons ban. And he thought LaPierre's criticism of video games and movies was off-target.
"I think the effect of the culture isn't the determining effect in an attack like this," Farago said.
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Dave Workman, senior editor of The Gun Mag, a publication owned by the Second Amendment Foundation, said the NRA news conference “just ramps up the attention to gun-free zones.”
“We’ve had shootings in shopping malls, movie theaters, schools, colleges – all gun-free zones – so maybe it’s time to take a look at that,” Workman said.
“The prevailing wisdom with a lot of the gun owners is -- it’s about time we started talking about something other than banning guns.”
A long-dormant national conversation about guns has reignited: some are calling for an assault weapons ban while other feel guns themselves aren't the root of the problem. So far the shootings have sparked several gun buy-back programs and even an anti-gun video organized by big-city mayors – but the NRA says it's the entertainment industry that is partly to blame. NBC's John Yang reports.
For Dave Hoover, whose nephew A.J. Boik was killed in the Aurora, Colo., movie theater massacre, the time for talk is over.
“Nobody wants to come in and take your gun away from you, but I don't think it's too much for us to ask that if I'm an individual who has lost their mind and wants to go wreak havoc in a mall or at a church or at a theater -- for the love of God we should be able to stop that,” Hoover told NBC affiliate KUSA.
“We need to stop having these discussions about it, get down to work, roll up our sleeves and accomplish something.”
While LaPierre was still talking, Twitter lit up with reaction.
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence instantly asked for donations to support its efforts to ban assault weapons and limit the number of guns that can be bought at one time.
"To all #NRA members who believe like we do, that we are better than this, we send this message … Join us," tweeted the group, which was formed after Jim Brady was shot with President Ronald Reagan in 1981.
Businessman Mark Cuban, who owns a movie distribution company and a chain of cinemas, wrote this on his verified Twitter account: "I think the NRA press conference is what the Mayans had in mind when they said the world would come to an end today."
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