In an Friday morning press conference, the Fairfax-based National Rifle Association broke its weeklong silence following the horrific shooting of 26 people at a school in Newtown, Conn., and called for a surge of gun-carrying "good guys" around American schools.
NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre called for a new kind of American domestic security revolving around armed civilians, arguing that "the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."
"We care about our president, so we protect him with armed Secret Service agents," LaPierre 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."
LaPierre's speech was a call to supporters to mobilize around a new vision of American domestic security, at a time when voices for gun control are steadily rising.
On Friday morning before the press conference, President Barack Obama released a video (above) citing a petition by hundreds of Americans calling for swift action. Virginia's Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat with an 'A' rating from the NRA, has called the massacre a "game changer" and begun advocating for stricter gun laws. And Thursday, U.S. Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., introduced five gun reform safety measures that he said had significant support among NRA members.
At the grassroots level, groups like Newtown United, a group of Newtown neighbors, are working to address major issues related to the tragedy, including gun control, violent media, mental health and legislation.
In stark contrast, LaPierre called for a great mobilization of gun-carrying "good guys," a term he used repeatedly but did not define, who could be more present and respond more quickly than police.
"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.
In his speech, LaPierre also accused the media of selling "violence against its own people" through violent video games, music videos and "blood-soaked" films. He did not take questions from reporters and did not acknowledge the protesters.
Soon afterward, Moran issued a statement calling the press conference "appalling," and saying, "Even more firearms are not the solution to reducing gun violence."
"Preventing gun-related massacres, like what occurred at Virginia Tech and in Newtown, Connecticut, requires a comprehensive approach that includes tackling mental health issues, looking at ways to better secure our schools, and changing our culture of violence," Moran said in the statement.
"But perhaps more importantly, it means tackling the gun epidemic in this country with sensible gun safety reforms. The NRA attempted to completely shirk their responsibility to that key piece of this puzzle. It was galling, and an overreach, and it may well backfire on them as the public reviews LaPierre’s statements.”
More on the NRA and guns in schools in Virginia:
Marshall: Some School Staff should Carry Guns
Sen. Warner: Newtown a 'Game Changer' on Guns
Speak Out: Should Teachers Be Armed?
Arlington Patch Editor Jason Spencer contributed to this report.