Here's a transcript of the remarks from the NRA press conference on the Sandy Hook school shooting. Statements are being updated as the remarks unfold.
DAVID KEENE, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: Good morning. I’m Dave Keene, president of the National Rifle Association of America.
And I’d like to welcome you here this morning for the purposes of beginning our discussion of the topic that’s been on the mind of American parents across this country, and that is, what do we do about the tragedies of the sort that struck in Newtown, Connecticut -- to avoid such events in the future?
Like most Americans, we were shocked by what happened. Like all Americans, we’ve been discussing all of the various options that are available to protect our children, and at this point we would like to share our thinking with you.
And for that purpose I’d like to introduce Wayne LaPierre, our executive vice president.
Thank you again for being with us.
And at the end of this conference we will not be taking questions, but next week we will be available to any of you who are interested in talking about these or other issues of interest to you, so contact us, please, at that point.
Thank you very much.
WAYNE LAPIERRE, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, NRA: Good morning.
The National Rifle Association -- 4 million mothers, fathers, sons and daughters -- join the nation in horror, outrage, grief, and earnest prayer for the families of Newtown, Connecticut, who have suffered such an incomprehensible loss as a result of this unspeakable crime.
Out of respect for the families and until the facts are known, the NRA has refrained from comment.
While some have tried to exploit tragedy for political gain, we have remained respectably silent. Now, we must speak for the safety of our nation’s children.
LAPIERRE: Because for all the noise and anger directed at us over the past week, no one, nobody has addressed the most important, pressing and immediate question we face: How do we protect our children right now, starting today, in a way that we know works?
The only way to answer that question is to face the truth. Politicians pass laws for gun free school zones, they issue 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.
How have our nation’s priorities gotten so far out of order. Think about it. We care about our money, so we protect our banks with armed guards. American airports, office buildings, power plants, court houses, even sports stadiums are all protected by armed security.
LAPIERRE: We care about our president, so we protect him with armed Secret Service agents. 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.
That must change now. The truth is...
PROTESTER: (inaudible) stop killing our children. It’s the NRA and -- the assault weapons that are killing our children, not (inaudible) teacher. We’ve got to end (inaudible). We’ve got to end the violence. We’ve got to stop the killers, stop the killing our children, stop killing our (inaudible) stop killing in our streets.
The NRA is killing our children. We’ve got to stop the violence, and violence begins with the NRA. Stating the true facts that they are the perpetrators of the violence that is taking place in our schools and on our streets.
LAPIERRE: The truth is, that our society is populated by an unknown number of genuine monsters. People that are so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and driven by demons, that no sane person can every possibly comprehend them. They walk among us every single day, and 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: How many more copycats are waiting in the wings for their moment of fame from a national media machine that rewards them with wall-to-wall attention and a sense of identity that they crave, while provoking others to try to make their mark.
A dozen more killers, a hundred more? How can we possibly even guess how many, given our nation’s refusal to create an active national database of the mentally ill? The fact is this: That wouldn’t even begin to address the much larger, more lethal criminal class -- killers, robbers, rapists, gang members who have spread like cancer in every community across our nation.
Meanwhile, while that happens, federal gun prosecutions have decreased by 40 percent, to the lowest levels in a decade. So now, due to a declined willingness to prosecute dangerous criminals, violent crime is increasing again for the first time in 19 years. Add another hurricane, terrorist attack, or some other natural of manmade disaster, and you’ve got a recipe for a national nightmare of violence and victimization.
LAPIERRE: And here’s another dirty little truth that the media try their best to conceal. There exists in this country, sadly, a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells and stows violence against its own people. Through vicious, violent video games with names like “Bullet Storm,” “Grand Theft Auto,” “Mortal Combat,” and “Splatterhouse.”
And here’s one, it’s called “Kindergarten Killers.” It’s been online for 10 years. How come my research staff can find it, and all of yours couldn’t? Or didn’t want anyone to know you had found it? Add another hurricane, add another natural disaster. I mean we have blood-soaked films out there, like “American Psycho,” “Natural Born Killers.” They’re aired like propaganda loops on Splatterdays and every single day.
1,000 music videos, and you all know this, portray life as a joke and they play murder -- portray murder as a way of life. And then they all have the nerve to call it entertainment. But is that what it really is? Isn’t fantasizing about killing people as a way to get your kicks really the filthiest form of pornography? In a race to the bottom, many conglomerates compete with one another to shock, violate, and offend every standard of civilized society, by bringing an even more toxic mix of reckless behavior, and criminal cruelty right into our homes. Every minute, every day, every hour of every single year.
LAPIERRE: A child growing up in America today witnesses 16,000 murders, and 200,000 acts of violence by the time he or she reaches the ripe old age of 18. And, throughout it all, too many in the national media, their corporate owners, and their stockholders act as silent enablers, if not complicit co-conspirators.
Rather than face their own moral failings, the media demonize gun owners.
PROTESTER: (OFF-MIKE) coming from the NRA.
The NRA has blood on its hands. The NRA has blood on its hands. Shame on the NRA.
Ban assault weapons now. Ban assault weapons now. NRA (inaudible) assault weapons now.
PROTESTER: Mr. LaPierre, what is reaction to this?
LAPIERRE: Rather than face -- rather than face their own moral failings the media demonize lawful gun owners, amplify their cries for more laws, and fill the national media with misinformation and dishonest thinking that only delay meaningful action, and all but guarantee that the next atrocity is only a news cycle away.
LAPIERRE: The media calls semi-automatic fire arms, machine guns. They claim these civilian semi-automatic fire arms are used by the military. They tell us that the .223 is one of the most powerful rifle calibers, when all of these claims are factually untrue, they don’t know what they’re talking about.
Worse, they perpetuate the dangerous notion that one more gun ban or one more law imposed on peaceable, lawful people will protect us where 20,000 other laws have failed.
As brave and heroic and as self-sacrificing as those teachers were in those classrooms and as prompt and professional and well- trained as those police were when they responded, they were unable -- through no fault of their own, unable to stop it.
As parents we do everything we can to keep our children safe. It’s now time for us to assume responsibility for our schools. The only way -- the only way to stop a monster from killing our kids is to be personally involved and invested in a plan of absolute protection.
The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.
Would you rather have your 911 call bring a good guy with a gun from a mile away or from a minute away?
LAPIERRE: Now, I can imagine the headlines, the shocking headlines you’ll print tomorrow. “More guns,” you’ll claim, “are the NRA’s answer to everything.” Your implication will be that guns are evil and have no place in society, much less in our schools.
But since when did “gun” automatically become a bad word? A gun in the hands of a Secret Service agent protecting our president isn’t a bad word. A gun in the hands of a soldier protecting the United States of America isn’t a bad word. And when you hear your glass breaking at three a.m. and you call 9/11, you won’t be able to pray hard enough for a gun in the hands of a good guy to get there fast enough to protect you.
So, why is the idea of a gun good when it’s used to protect the president of our country or our police, but bad when it’s used to protect our children in our schools? They’re our kids. They’re our responsibility. And it’s not just our duty to protect them, it’s our right to protect them.
LAPIERRE: You know, five years ago after the Virginia Tech tragedy, when I said we should put armed security in every school, the media called me crazy. But what if -- what if when Adam Lanza started shooting his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday, he’d been confronted by qualified armed security? Will you at least admit it’s possible that 26 little kids, that 26 innocent lives might have been spared that day? Is it so important to you (inaudible) would rather continue to risk the alternative? Is the press and the political class here in Washington D.C. so consumed by fear and hatred of the NRA and American gun owners, that you’re willing to accept the world, where real resistance to evil monsters is alone, unarmed school principal left to surrender her life, her life, to shield those children in her care.
No one. No one, regardless of personal, political prejudice has the right to impose that sacrifice.
Ladies and gentlemen, there’s no national one size fits all solution to protecting our children. But do know that this president zeroed out school emergency planning grants in last year’s budget and scrapped Secure Our Schools policing grants in next year’s budget.
With all the foreign aid the United States does, with all the money in the federal budget, can’t we afford to put a police officer in every single school? Even if they did that, politicians have no business and no authority denying us the right, the ability, and the moral imperative to protect ourselves and our loved ones from harm.
LAPIERRE: Now, the National Rifle Association knows there are millions of qualified and active retired police, active, Reserve, and retired military, security professionals, certified firefighters, security professionals, rescue personnel, an extraordinary corps of patriotic, trained, qualified citizens to join with local school officials and police in devising a protection plan for every single school.
We could deploy them to protect our kids now. We can immediately make America’s schools safer, relying on the brave men and women in America’s police forces. The budgets -- and you all know this, everyone in the country knows this -- of our local police departments are strained, and the resources are severely limited, but their dedication and courage is second to none. And, they can be deployed right now.
I call on Congress today, to act immediately to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every single school in this nation. And, to do it now to make sure that blanket safety is in place when our kids return to school in January.
Before Congress reconvenes, before we engage in any lengthy debate over legislation, regulation, or anything else, as soon as our kids return to school after the holiday break, we need to have every single school in America immediately deploy a protection program proven to work and by that I mean armed security.
LAPIERRE: Right now today every school in the United States should plan meetings with parents, school administrators, teachers, local authorities and draw upon every resource that’s out there and available to erect a cordon of protection around our kids right now.
Every school is gonna have a different solution based on its own unique situation. Every school in America needs to immediately identify, dedicate and deploy the resources necessary to put these security forces in place, though, right now.
And the National Rifle Association, as America’s preeminent trainer of law enforcement and security personnel for the past 50 years -- we have 11,000 police training instructors in the NRA -- is ready, willing and uniquely qualified to help.
Our training programs are the most advanced in the world. That expertise must be brought to bear to protect our schools and our children now.
We did it through (ph) our nation’s defense industries and military installations during World War II. We did it for very young kids with our Eddie Eagle child safety program that is throughout the country in schools right now, and we’ll do it again today.
LAPIERRE: The NRA is gonna bring all its knowledge, all its dedication and all its resources to develop a model national schools shield emergency response program for every single school in America that wants it. From armed security to building design and access control, to information technology, to student and teacher training, this multifaceted program will be developed by the very best experts in the field. Former Congressman Asa Hutchinson will lead the effort as national director of the National Model School Shield Program, with a budget provided by the NRA of whatever scope the task requires. His experience as United States attorney, director of the Drug Enforcement Agency, and undersecretary of the Department of Homeland Security will give him the knowledge and expertise to hire the most knowledgeable and credentialed experts that are available in the United States of America to get this program up and running from the first day forward.
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. And that security is only available with properly trained, armed good guys. Under Asa’s leadership, our team of security experts will make this program available to the world for protecting our children in school. And we’ll make the program available to every single school in America, free of charge. That’s a plan of action that can, and will make a real positive, indisputable difference in the safety of our children, and it will start right now.
LAPIERRE: There’s going to be a lot of time for talk, and debate later. This is a time this is a day for decisive action. We can’t wait for the next unspeakable crime to happen before we act. We can’t lose precious time debating legislation that won’t work. We mustn’t allow politics or personal prejudice to divide us. We must act now for the sake of every child in America.
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.
And now, to tell you more about the program, I’d like to introduce the head of the effort, former U.S. congressman, former U.S. attorney for the western district of Arkansas, and former administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, the Honorable Congressman Asa Hutchinson.
FORMER REP. ASA HUTCHINSON, R-ARK.: Thank you, Wayne.
One of the first responsibilities I learned at Homeland Security was the importance of protecting our nation’s critical infrastructure. And there’s nothing more critical to our nation’s well being than our children’s safety. They are this country’s future and our most precious resource.
HUTCHINSON: We all understand that our children should be safe in school. But it is also essential that the parents understand and have confidence in that safety. As a result of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, that confidence across this nation has been shattered. Assurance of school safety must be restored with a sense of urgency.
That is why I’m grateful that the National Rifle Association has asked me to lead a team of security experts to assist our schools, parents, and our communities.
I took this assignment on one condition, that my team of experts will be independent and will be guided solely by what are the best security solutions for the safety of our children while at school. Even though we are just starting this process, I envision this initiative will have two key elements.
First of all, it would be based on a model security plan, a comprehensive strategy for school security based upon the latest, most up-to-date technical information from the foremost experts in their fields. This model security plan will serve as a template, a set of best practices, principles, and guidelines that every school in America can tweak as needed and tailor to their own set of circumstances.
Every school and community is different, but this model security plan will allow every school to choose among its various components to develop a school safety strategy that fits their own unique circumstance, whether its a large urban school or a small rural school such as we have in Arkansas or anything in between.
Armed, trained, qualified school security personnel will be one element of that plan, but by no means, the only element. If a school decides, for whatever reason, that it doesn’t want or need armed security personnel, that, of course, is a decision to be made by the parents and the local school board at the local level.
HUTCHINSON: The second point I want to make is that this will be a program that does not depend on massive funding from local authorities or the federal government. Instead, it will make use of local volunteers serving in their own communities.
In my home state of Arkansas, my son was a volunteer with a local group called Watchdog Dads (ph) who volunteer their time at schools, who patrol playgrounds and provide a measure of added security. President Clinton initiated a program called Cops In School, but the federal response is not sufficient for today’s task.
Whether they’re retired police, retired military, or rescue personnel, I think there are people in every community in this country who would be happy to serve if only someone asked them and gave them the training and certifications to do so.
The National Rifle Association is the natural obvious choice to sponsor this program. Their gun safety, marksmanship, and hunter education programs have set the standard for well over a century. Over the past 25 years, their Eddy Eagle (ph) gun safe program has taught over 26 million kids that real guns aren’t toys, and today child gun accidents are at the lowest levels ever recorded.
School safety is a complex issue with no simple, single, solution, but I believe trained, qualified, armed security is one key component among many that can provide the first line of difference as well as the last line of defense.
Again, I welcome the opportunity to serve this vital, potentially life-saving effort.
HUTCHINSON: Thank you, very much.
LAPIERRE: (inaudible) thank you.
QUESTION: Do either of you feel like any talks with...
KEENE: As I indicated...
QUESTION: ... will stop gun...
KEENE: As I indicated at the outset, this is the beginning of a serious conversation. We won’t be taking questions today, but Andrew Arulanandam, our public affairs officer, is here.
KEENE: We will be willing to talk to anybody beginning on Monday. A text of the speech by Wayne and Asa Hutchinson’s remarks are available at nra.org.
I want to thank all of you for being with us. And I look forward to talking to you and answering any of your questions next week.
Thank you very much.
QUESTION: One question. One question, Mr. Keene?
QUESTION: (inaudible) White House for any discussions (ph)? Mr. Keene, is the door completely closed (inaudible) White House for any discussion, sir?