WASHINGTON — The embattled National Rifle Association broke its silence in a confrontational press conference Friday to demand a vast new government program putting armed guards in every school in America, a public relations initiative launched one week after a man shot and killed 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.
In a 30-minute, winding press conference that was twice interrupted by protestors, the association introduced "The National School Shield," led by former Rep. Asa Hutchinson, to send emergency plans to schools and advocate for security guards in every last one.
"The only thing that stops a bad guy is a good guy with a gun," said Wayne LaPierre, the head of the NRA.
"Five years ago, after the Virginia Tech tragedy, when I said we should put armed security in every school, the media called me crazy," LaPierre said at another point during the news conference. "But what if, what if when Adam Lanza started shooting his way into Sandy Hook Elementary, he'd been confronted by qualified armed security? Can we at least admit that the 26 innocent lives might have been spared that day?"
"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," he added later.
Despite tight security, the meeting was twice interrupted by protestors carrying signs. "NRA, stop killing our children!" one shouted before he was escorted out of the room.
When reporters shouted to LaPierre for comment, he continued with his written remarks and did not react.
When NRA President David Keene took the stage later, he, too, refused further comment.
"This is the beginning of a serious conversation," Keene concluded. "We won't be taking any questions."
As one reporter stood to leave, he leaned over to whisper to a colleague, "That was one of the most bizarre things I've ever seen."
LaPierre's blustery statement drew no public praise from his Republican allies, and immediate denunciations from Democrats.
"Walking out of another funeral and was handed the NRA transcript. The most revolting, tone deaf statement I've ever seen," Connecticut Senator-elect Chris Murphy tweeted.