UPDATE 6-NRA calls for armed school guards as U.S. mourns massacre

Patricia Zengerle and Dan Burns and Edith Honan
Reuters Middle East

* NRA wants police in schools by end of holiday break

* New York mayor criticizes "paranoid, dystopian vision"

* Churches up and down U.S. East Coast ring bells

* Four dead in shooting Friday in Pennsylvania

WASHINGTON/NEWTOWN, Conn., Dec 21 (Reuters) - The powerful

U.S. gun rights lobby called on Friday for armed police in all

U.S. schools within weeks as Americans remembered the victims of

the Newtown, Connecticut, school massacre with a moment of


National Rifle Association Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre

said attempts to keep guns out of schools were ineffective and

made schools more vulnerable than airports, banks and other

public buildings patrolled by armed guards.

"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good

guy with a gun," LaPierre told a news briefing, calling on

lawmakers to station armed police officers in all schools by the

time children return from the Christmas break in January.

The NRA announcement came a short time after bells chimed

and Americans bowed their heads to remember the 20 students, all

6 or 7 years old, and six adults killed by a gunman who opened

fire with a semi-automatic assault rifle last Friday at Sandy

Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

"Does anybody really believe that the next Adam Lanza isn't

planning his attack on a school he's already identified at this

very moment?" LaPierre asked at the NRA briefing in Washington.

LaPierre said the news media and violent video games shared

blame for the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.

His remarks were twice interrupted by protesters who unfurled

signs and shouted "stop the killing."

The slaughter of so many young children has rekindled fierce

debate about U.S. gun laws. This week, some lawmakers called for

swift passage of an assault-weapons ban and President Barack

Obama commissioned a task force to find a way to quell violence,

a challenge in a nation with a strong culture of gun ownership.

LaPierre did not take questions at the news conference. His

comments drew a sharp response from gun-control advocates.

"They offered a paranoid, dystopian vision of a more

dangerous and violent America where everyone is armed and no

place is safe," said New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

About 50 pro-gun-control protesters rallied outside the

downtown Washington hotel where the NRA held its event.

"They were blaming it on all kinds of other things instead

of guns themselves," said Medea Benjamin, co-director of women's

peace group Code Pink, who was escorted out of the briefing

after holding up a poster that read "NRA blood on your hands."

Another mass shooting occurred on Friday when a gunman

killed three people and wounded three state troopers before

being killed in a shootout in Frankstown Township, Pennsylvania.


To remember the school massacre, Connecticut Governor Dannel

Malloy observed a moment of silence with mourners at 9:30 a.m.

EST (1430 GMT) and governors from Maine to California asked

residents to follow suit. Church bells rang in tree-lined

Newtown, and up and down the East Coast.

The attack shattered the illusion of safety in Newtown, a

town of 27,000 people where some residents have already launched

an effort aimed at tightening rules on gun ownership. A newly

formed group calling itself "Newtown United" met this week to

develop a strategy to influence the gun debate.

Democratic Senator-elect Chris Murphy, who spoke to the

group on Wednesday, called the NRA comments "the most revolting,

tone-deaf statement I've ever heard."

The NRA proposal would take one of every seven U.S. police

officers off the streets during school days, based on a Reuters

analysis of U.S. government data.

Gun rights advocates were quick to back the NRA proposal.

"They have come up with an idea that is immediately usable,"

said Joseph Tartaro, executive editor of The Gun Mag, a

publication of the Second Amendment Foundation.

But Brian Giattina, a school board member in Birmingham,

Alabama, said it would send the wrong message to children,

teachers and parents.

"It tells them we have to have a gun to protect them. It is

a complex problem that needs to involve mental health,

education, law enforcement and the community," he said.

Chris Ennis, 37, of Denver, Colorado, who said he shot his

first gun at 7 years old, called the NRA suggestion "misguided."

"I can't help but think that with armed guards on duty, our

schools only lack iron bars and a perimeter of barbed wire from

becoming a prison," said Ennis, the son of a long-time English

teacher who himself has a son entering kindergarten

The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the

right to bear arms and hundreds of millions of weapons are in

private hands.

The right is closely guarded by gun advocates, even though

about 11,100 Americans died in gun-related killings in 2011, not

including suicides, according to preliminary data from the U.S.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the Newtown shootings, the gunman used a military-style

rifle and carried two handguns which were legally registered to

his mother, who Lanza shot and killed before the massacre.


The NRA proposal was similar to its call after the 1999

shooting spree at Columbine High School in Colorado, when two

teenagers killed 12 fellow students and a teacher before

committing suicide. That school had an armed sheriff's deputy on

duty who was unable to stop the shooting.

At that time, Congress funded a "cops in schools" program,

though many schools dropped the officers after the federal aid

that paid for the program ran out.

A security consultant to the National Association of

Secondary School Principals said armed guards would improve

school safety but said it is not clear one would have prevented

the carnage at Sandy Hook.

"He might have stopped it. He might have shortened it. He

might have been the first one killed," said consultant Bill


The head of the largest U.S. teachers union called the NRA

proposal "out of touch."

"If your purpose is to reduce gun violence in schools, then

the solution isn't to add more guns to schools," said Dennis Van

Roekel, president of the National Education Association.

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