In what was supposed to be a "defining moment" for the organization, the National Rifle Association held a rare press event on Friday afternoon — offering its first public comments since last week's horrifying school shootings in Newtown, Conn., which claimed the lives of 26 victims, including 20 young children. "While some have tried to exploit the tragedy for political gain, we have remained respectfully silent," said NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre. "For all the noise and anger directed at us over the past week, 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 we know works?"
The answer, the NRA says, is more guns.
"Think about it. We care about our money, so we protect our banks with armed guards," LaPierre said. "We care about our president, so we protect him with armed secret service agents." Yet when it comes to our children, "we as a society leave them utterly defenseless, and the monsters and predators of the world know it and exploit it."
To avoid future violence in schools, the NRA wants to put armed security in every school under a new National Model School Shield Program, and is calling on Congress to act immediately. "The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun," said LaPierre, "is a good guy with a gun." (Read Slate's take on how much this plan might cost.)
LaPierre also called for a nationally instituted database for the mentally ill, and cast aspersions on a supposed "shadow industry" of violent video games and movies like Mortal Kombat (1992) and Natural Born Killers (1994). "Isn't fantasizing about killing people as a way to get your kicks the dirtiest form of pornography?" he asked.
Two protesters interrupted LaPierre's speech, and both were removed from the event. Association president David Keene told the media in attendance that there would be no questions at what was originally billed as a press conference.
The NRA, which was founded in 1871, is America's largest and most powerful pro-gun organization. In the week since the tragedy in Connecticut, it has seen its membership skyrocket, adding 8,000 members each day, reports Fox News.
Predictably, much of the Twittersphere was rather horrified by LaPierre's surprisingly tone-deaf speech. Here, some first reactions:
Where's the security at this NRA press conference? Seems contradictory to the points LaPierre is making.
— Nick Carbone (@nickcarbone) December 21, 2012
NRA blames 20-year-old Sega games, 10-year-old movies and MTV's non-existent music videos for gun violence.
— Mike Isaac (@MikeIsaac) December 21, 2012
This is called playing to your base.
— Ben Smith (@BuzzFeedBen) December 21, 2012
Protester #2 at the NRA presser twitter.com/michaelhayes/s…
— Mike Hayes (@michaelhayes) December 21, 2012
All credit to NRA President David Lynch. RT @jordanfabian: This press conference is like bizarre performance art.
— daveweigel (@daveweigel) December 21, 2012
Congratulations, Clint Eastwood. You no longer gave the most tone deaf political speech of the year.
— pourmecoffee (@pourmecoffee) December 21, 2012
In the UK the “good guys” don’t generally need guns to stop bad guys because the bad guys don’t have guns.
— Matt Yglesias (@mattyglesias) December 21, 2012
It's amazing how much damage LaPierre is doing to the NRA without even allowing questions.
— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) December 21, 2012
Until 1974, NRA was pro-gun and pro-gun control. Then the absolutists took over.
— Jeffrey Goldberg (@JeffreyGoldberg) December 21, 2012
Wayne LaPierre dispatches army of straw men to protect elementary schools.
— Adam Sorensen (@adamsorensen) December 21, 2012
No two ways about: This is gross, awful, dishonest.
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) December 21, 2012
There are about 99,000 public schools in the U.S. That's a lot of officers to hire in the next 10 days.
— Marty Kady (@mkady) December 21, 2012
While I agree with the NRA and LaPierre's points in substance, I'm not sure this presser was good in style a week after Newtown.
— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) December 21, 2012
Watch video from the event here.