It was called a press conference, but it was really a dog-and-pony show. Or rather, a dog-and-ID show. Reporters were required to show ID twice before checking in to a crowded ballroom in a downtown Washington, D.C., hotel, where they had already pre-registered, while sniffer dogs roamed between their legs.
Such was the National Rifle Association’s rollout of its “model national school shield emergency response program,” which will offer a voluntary program for arming public schools to protect against violence such the massacre in Newtown, Conn., one week ago. The NRA is calling for an armed police officer in every school in the country.
There were few details to be had about how this will work, with NRA President Dave King promising that their people would be available Monday for questions. That’s Christmas Eve, by the way.
What we know about the NRA’s program is that it will be run by former Rep. Asa Hutchinson, R-Ark., and that it will focus on armed security, building design, and access control. Schools that don’t want the NRA’s assistance don’t have to take it, but their consulting services are free. Hutchinson said the changes could be implemented by schools with a minimum of cost from local school budgets by using volunteers from the community.
Protestors quietly lined the street in front of the Willard Intercontinental Hotel where the press conference was held with signs such as “We Shall Overcome the NRA’s Madness” and “Time for Gun Control.”
Any hope of the NRA negotiating with President Obama or members of Congress on gun legislation were dashed with the remarks of NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre. “Politicians passed laws for gun-free school zones. They issued press releases bragging about them. They post signs advertising them. And in doing so they tell every insane killer in America that schools are the safest place to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk.”
Obama and Sen. Dianne Feinsten, D-Calif. have called for an assault weapons ban, but there was no indication that the NRA would deign to consider such a possibility. That is not a surprise, except that it shows the emptiness of Republicans' comments earlier this week when they said they hoped the NRA would participate in the negotiations.
LaPierre’s rambling speech was interrupted twice by protestors while he lashed out at violent video games, the media, and even parents for not protecting children from violence. “The NRA has blood on its hands,” shouted one protestor as she was dragged out of the room by security officers. “Stop the reckless protection of the NRA.”
Meanwhile, conversations have begun in earnest on Capitol Hill about several gun measures that will receive votes next year in the Senate—a new assault weapons ban and a ban on high-capacity magazine clips that allow shooters to fire off hundreds of rounds.
It’s not clear that the legislation will go anywhere, even if it passes the Senate. House Republicans have not been open to such proposals even if they could focus on it. (They also have their own problems in fracturing over how to handle the “fiscal cliff,” which offers an uncertain future on how regular legislative order will happen in the future.)
LaPierre did acknowledge the need for immediate action, something Obama and members of Congress have asked for as well. “We can’t waste time debating legislation that won’t work,” he said.
To that notion, Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., a pro-gun lawmaker, has this response. Speaking of Adam Lanza, the gunman who invaded Sandy Hook Elementary School, Casey said, “I believe his intent was to kill hundreds of children, not 20. I was haunted by that reality, and to say that the most powerful nation in the world can’t do anything about that really strains credibility.”
Casey, who previously would have opposed an assault weapons ban and a limitation on ammunition rounds, now says he would support that legislation. “We have no idea how successful any bill, any legislation, would be,” he said in an interview. “But I think the horror, the reality, is such that it haunts me and it should haunt any public official who can do something about it