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CNN Newsroom

The NRA Breaks Silence on Newtown Shooting

Aired December 21, 2012 - 11:00   ET



DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everyone. Top of the hour. Don Lemon here. Ashleigh is off today. I want to welcome our viewers from around the world.

One week after the slaughter at Sandy Hook, 90 minutes after the nation paused in silence on the victims, the National Rifle Association preparing right now to break its silence.

Live picture now from Washington. That's where they're going to speak. Wayne LaPierre is going to speak, the head of the NRA at a news conference in a hotel ballroom in Washington D.C.

We just got a warning just about two minutes ago that it would be two minutes, so we're waiting for him to show up. You know, the NRA is America's premiere gun rights lobby. It may be facing its biggest challenge in years as many Americans shocked -- they were shocked by Newtown and they're calling for tougher restrictions on guns and ammunition.

And, while we wait for the group's executive director to appear, Wayne LaPierre, I want to bring in several of my CNN colleagues now.

First off, Wolf Blitzer is here. He's in our Washington bureau. Jessica Yellin is at the White House, Dana Bash on Capitol Hill and Jeffrey Toobin is in New York for us.

So, as we wait, Wolf, let's start with you. Is this, in fact, a turning point for guns in America? Do you think we'll hear anything like that in this press conference?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": I know a lot of attitudes have hardened as a result of what has happened over the past week in Newtown, Connecticut.

Don, you were there, I was there and people all over the country, indeed, people all over the world are outraged by the horrible nature of that massacre that occurred at the elementary school.

We see ...

LEMON: Here he is. Wolf, sorry to cut you off. Here he is. Let's listen.


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 minds 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 would 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, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: 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 respectfully silent.

Now, we must speak for the safety of our nation's children 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 passed 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, courthouses, even sports stadiums are all protected by armed security.

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 ...

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTOR: NRA, stop killing our children! It's the NRA and the assault weapons that are killing our children, not armed (INAUDIBLE), not armed teachers!

We've got to end the arming! We've got to end the violence! We've got to stop the killing. Stop the killing in our schools! Stop the killing in our homes! Stop the killing in our streets!

The NRA is killing our children! You've got to stop the violence and the violence begins with the NRA! I'm stating the true facts! The NRA are the perpetrators of the crimes that are 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 ever 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?

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 or man- made disaster and you've got a recipe for a national nightmare of violence and victimization.

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 "Bulletstorm," "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," that are aired like propaganda loops on "Splatter-days" and every single day.

A thousand 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, media 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.

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.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTSTOR: ... the reckless behavior coming from the NRA. The NRA has blood on its hands! The NRA has blood on its hands! Take on the NRA! Ban assault weapons now! Ban assault weapons now! NRA, ban assault weapons now!

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. LaPierre, what is your reaction to this? Mr. LaPierre, what's your reaction to these protests? What is your reaction to that?

LAPIERRE: Rather than face their own moral failings, the media demonizes 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.

The media calls semi-automatic firearms "machine guns." They claim these civilian semi-automatic firearms are used by the military. They tell us that the 223-round 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?

Now, I can imagine the headlines, the shocking headlines you will print tomorrow. More guns, you will 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 the 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 3:00 a.m. and you call 911, 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.

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 abhorrent to you that you'd rather continue to risk the alternative?

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 a world where real resistance to evil monsters is a lone, 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 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.

Now, the National Rifle Association knows there are millions of qualified active and 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 their 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.

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 going to 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.

In the National Rifle Association, as America's pre-eminent 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 for 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.

The NRA is going to bring all its knowledge, all its dedication and all its resources to develop a model national school shield emergency response program for every school 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 a 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 for the world for protecting our children at school and we'll make that 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.

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 must not allow politics for 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 school 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 administer of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, the honorable Congressman Asa Hutchinson.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. LaPierre, are you going to take questions?


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.

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 am 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 will 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 it's a large, urban school or a small, rural school like 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.