WASHINGTON – In the days following the shooting deaths of 20 children in Newtown, Conn., some of the most ardent gun-rights advocates called for a new conversation on how to address gun-related violence in the United States.
But National Rifle Association officials and some leading Republicans signaled over the weekend that they would continue to resist any comprehensive change in gun laws, while calling for armed personnel to be placed in all schools and a discussion about violence in popular culture.
I do believe better security in schools is a good place to start, said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who rejected the notion of government action to ban sales of the kind of assault-style weapons used in the Newtown shootings. I dont suggest you take my right to buy an AR-15 away from me, because I dont think it will work, he said.
White House officials said they were not encouraged by the NRA approach and reiterated the administrations commitment to regulating assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines.
I dont think its what will work, said Wayne LaPierre, the NRAs executive vice president, in an appearance on NBCs Meet the Press. He characterized legislation to ban assault weapons authored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., as a phony piece of legislation built on lies.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., interviewed Sunday on CNNs State of the Union show, said the NRA statements were really disheartening.
I had hoped they would come to the table and say everything is on the table. What this does mean is that the kind of new regulation of guns that President Obama and Vice President Biden and a lot of people would like to see enacted early next year is not going to happen easily. Its going to be a battle.
Meantime, around the country state legislators and school board members began their own debate over the NRA schools initiative, with officials discussing whether it would be good policy to have guns in the hands of teachers or others in the schools as a way to curb violence.
The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, LaPierre said Sunday, repeating a theme from a Friday news conference in which he announced the new NRA campaign to place a police officer or an armed guard in every school.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said Sunday on Meet the Press that LaPierre was so tone deaf he actually helps the cause of us passing sensible gun legislation.
Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa., a Second Amendment booster, told the Philadelphia Inquirer last week that he was so haunted by the Newtown shootings that he would vote for an assault weapons ban and legislation barring magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
NRA leaders disputed the idea of a gulf between them and their members. Grover Norquist, the anti-tax activist and NRA board member, said in an interview that the left consistently underestimates how committed NRA members are to the Second Amendment. He said Fridays announcement of a school safety initiative was just what the nation needs.
This is exactly the right position, Norquist said. It is positive, it is real, and it will trump the proposals for new gun laws by the liberals. This proposal will help make things better. The message from the left has been: We dont care about your kids; we care about furthering the liberal agenda.
LaPierre generally dismissed the idea of participating in a panel being convened by the White House, unless it concentrated on gun safety.
If it is a panel thats just going to be made up of a bunch of people that, for the last 20 years, have been trying to destroy the Second Amendment, Im not interested, he said on Meet the Press. He did call for increased government regulation in one area: improving a national database with information about the mentally ill.