AMERICA’S most powerful gun lobby has demanded armed guards in the hallways of every school, declaring: "the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun".
In a chaotic press conference twice interrupted by protesters, the National Rifle Association ( NRA) dismissed growing calls for a ban on assault weapons as a “dangerous notion” and warned that America’s children were “utterly defenceless” in their classrooms.
Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s executive vice president, said his organisation would oppose Barack Obama’s efforts to bring in the first reform of gun controls laws in nearly two decades and instead called for a national database of the “mentally ill”.
“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 defenceless,” Mr LaPierre said. “The monsters and the predators in the world know it and exploit it.”
The NRA had promised they would offer “meaningful contributions” to the national debate on firearms in their first public statements since the massacre at Sandy Hook elementary school, where gunman Adam Lanza murdered 20 children and six adults.
However, gun control advocates were left outraged as Mr LaPierre appeared to dismiss calls for new laws and instead railed against the press, liberal politicians and the video game industry.
"Instead of offering solutions to a problem they have helped create, they offered a paranoid, dystopian vision of a more dangerous and violent America where everyone is armed and no place is safe," he said
Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York a champion of gun control, described the press conference as "a shameful evasion of the crisis" facing the US.
"Instead of offering solutions to a problem they have helped create, they offered a paranoid, dystopian vision of a more dangerous and violent America where everyone is armed and no place is safe," he said.
The NRA’s leaders took the stage at a hotel across the street from the White House just as a shoot-out in Pennsylvania left four people dead and wounded three police officers.
Within minutes of beginning his remarks, Mr LaPierre was interrupted by a protester carrying a banner that read “NRA: killing our kids” and accused the group of having “blood on its hands”.
After the protester was dragged out, Mr LaPierre called on Congress to create a “national shield” of armed security guards in every single school in America by the time classes resume in January.
“What if when Adam Lanza started shooting his way in the Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday, he’d been confronted by qualified armed security?” He said. “Will you at least admit it’s possible that that 26 innocent lives might have been spared that day?”
He warned that “the next Adam Lanza” was already planning an attack and said the government must create “an active national database of the mentally ill”.
Mr LaPierre rejected efforts by Democrats to outlaw assault weapons and high capacity-magazines like the ones used at Sandy Hook, saying liberals were working to “perpetuate the dangerous notion that one more gun ban or one more law imposed on peaceful lawful people will protect us”.
He railed against “the press and political class consumed by fear and hatred” of gun owners and attacked the “callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry” of violent video games.
At one point, the press conference was shown a brief clip of an internet game called “Kindergarten Killers”, where the user shoots at animated children.
“Isn’t fantasising about killing people as a way of getting your kicks really the filthiest form of pornography?”, Mr LaPierre said.
The NRA remains a potent force in US politics, donating millions of dollars to both Democrats and Republicans in order to secure their opposition to gun laws. More than half the members of the incoming Congress have received donations from the NRA during their political careers.
However, the group’s position appeared to be out of step with a growing number of Americans in support of gun control.
Mr Obama responded to a petition on the White House website that demanded tighter restrictions and had gained nearly 200,000 signatures.
“We hear you,” Mr Obama said in an online video. “I will do everything in my power as president to advance these efforts because if there’s even one thing we can do as a country to protect our children, we have a responsibility to try”.