The American people will fight back against any attempt to introduce new gun controls in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, the head of the powerful National Rifle Association lobby group claimed.
Wayne LaPierre, the chief executive of the NRA who was criticised on Friday by both liberals and conservatives after a rambling press conference suggesting posting armed guards in schools, blamed a media conspiracy for trying to whip up an anti-gun backlash.
He said "ordinary" Americans would resist any attempt to curb their Second Amendment rights to bear arms.
"When the reality of the consequences of what the politicians in this town and the media and the elites want to do to their Second Amendment rights and take them away, I think they'll do what they've done historically, they'll defend the freedom," he said.
As opinion polls in the wake of Sandy Hook show support for tougher gun laws at a 10-year high, Mr LaPierre's performances have further polarised the debate. Chuck Schumer, a Democrat senator from New York and advocate of gun controls, said that the NRA's "tone deaf" rhetoric was helping to win the argument for supporters of tougher laws.
"Trying to prevent shootings in schools without talking about guns is like trying to prevent lung cancer without talking about cigarettes," Mr Schumer said.
Mr LaPierre ruled out NRA support for new gun controls, including limiting high-capacity magazines or closing the so-called "gun show" loophole that allows 40pc of gun sales in America without a background check on the buyer.
Asked if he would support changes if the NRA's demands for better mental health care, tougher police checks and prosecutions and an examination of violence in video games, were met, Mr LaPierre still refused.
Gun legislation "is all built on lies that have been found out" and won't pass, he retorted, describing Democrat plans to reintroduce an assault weapons ban that was allowed to lapse in 2004 as "phoney", reiterating the merits of his own plan to put armed guards in schools.
"If it's crazy to call for armed officers in our schools to protect our children, then call me crazy," he said.
Difficulties remain in pushing gun reforms through a Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator from South Carolina, said he would not support the legislation.
"People where I live have come up to me (and said), 'Please don't let the government take my guns away'," he said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)