Los Angeles-area supporters of stronger gun laws are denouncing a proposal by the National Rifle Association to encourage the placement of armed guards in schools as a means of deterring attacks like those in Newtown, CT.
"I think the idea of putting an armed guard in every school is just ludicrous," said Billie Weiss, executive director of the Violence Prevention Coalition of Los Angeles (VPCLA). "Is that what we really want our schools to turn into? I have no argument with [having] security guards—people who give permission for people to come into the school—but we're trying to teach kids self-control and how to be responsible."
At a Friday morning news conference in Washington, DC, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre proposed a program called The National School Shield, which advocates placing armed guards in all schools.
"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," LaPierre said.
"We care about our president, so we protect him with armed Secret Service agents," he said. "Members of Congress work 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."
"If we truly cherish our kids, more than our money, more than our celebrities, more than our sports stadiums, we must give them the greatest level of protection possible," LaPierre said. "And that security is only available with properly trained, armed good guys."
LaPierre, who was interrupted twice by protesters who held signs in front of TV cameras, made a direct call for local action.
"I call on every parent. I call on every teacher. I call on every school administrator, every law enforcement officer in this country, to join with us and help create a national schools shield safety program to protect our children with the only positive line of defense that’s tested and proven to work," he said.
The NRA's response comes amid heightened calls for stronger gun laws. Before the news conference, President Obama released a video (above) citing a petition by hundreds of Americans calling for swift action.
LaPierre, in an often combative tone, said that in the wake of the Newtown, CT, shootings, in which 20 children and six teachers were killed by a 20-year-old gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School, gun owners have been "demonized."
Instead, he said, blame should be placed on the violence in video games, music videos and "blood-soaked" films. He called video game makers “a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people.”
Suzanne Verge, president of the Los Angeles chapter of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said the focus needs to be kept on stricter gun laws, not video games.
"Other countries—England, Japan—they all have video games," Verge said. "They do not have the gun deaths that we do have."
Margot Bennett, executive director of Women Against Gun Violence, based in West Los Angeles, took issue with the NRA's program to promote armed guards in schools.
"We don't believe that guns are the answer to guns," Bennett said, "and we don't believe our children should be around guns. In reality, even police make mistakes. … If police who were trained for emergencies have accidents, why would we want people who have just shot at targets to be protecting our children or carrying weapons in our schools?"
Tom Waldman, director of communications and media relations for the Los Angeles Unified School District, said Superintendent John Deasy was not commenting on LaPierre's remarks.
Patch editors John Ness and Ajay Singh contributed to this report.