In a Friday morning press conference in Washington DC, the National Rifle Association broke its weeklong silence following the horrific shooting of 26 people at a school in Newtown, CT and called for a surge of gun-carrying "good guys" around American schools.
NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre called for a new kind of American domestic security revolving around armed civilians, arguing that "the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."
"We care about our president, so we protect him with armed Secret Service agents," LaPierre said. "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."
LaPierre's speech was a call to supporters to mobilize around a new vision of American domestic security, at a time when voices for gun control are steadily rising.
On Friday morning before the press conference, President Obama released a video (above) citing a petition by hundreds of Americans calling for swift action.
At the grassroots level, groups like Newtown United, a group of Newtown neighbors, are working to address major issues related to the tragedy, including gun control, violent media, mental health and legislation.
Newtown locals responded to the NRA press conference. Suzy DeYoung, a Newtown parent, coach and resident for nine years who has three children, said LaPierre's speech was playing to people’s fears.
“People are much smarter than this,” DeYoung said. “He is saying we need to be protected from guns by more guns. This lack of logic speaks for itself, and I truly believe the response you are abut to see from parents all around the world will offer better commentary than I ever could."
Joanna Zachos, a mother in Sandy Hook, CT said that while she supports an increase in gun control and personally does not believe in guns at all, that the larger problem goes "way beyond that."
"The problem we have is our immunity to violence as a society as a whole," she said. "Violent video games, violent movies, addiction to horror films. We've developed immunity to violence and violent images."
LaPierre also lamented violence in video games, music videos and "blood-soaked" films. But his central solution seemed to be a great mobilization of gun-carrying "good guys," a term he used repeatedly but did not define, who might be more present and respond more quickly than police.
"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," LaPierre said. "And that security is only available with properly trained, armed 'good guys'."
LaPierre, who was interrupted twice by protesters who held signs in front of TV cameras, made a direct call for local action.
"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 schools shield safety program to protect our children with the only positive line of defense that’s tested and proven to work," he said.
LaPierre did not take questions from reporters, and did not acknowledge the protesters.
Readers on our Woodstock-Towne Lake Patch Facebook page generally were in support of LaPierre's comments.
"A good person with a gun is extra security for everyone else whether it's concealed or not," said user Tammy Michaud. "A bad person is the one that's going to kill the good people who aren't packing. If these people would put themselves in these parent's shoes, they'd want firearm protection for their family as much as anyone else."
Jimmy Davis added he felt teachers who want to carry guns in the classroom should be able to do so "provided that they have been properly trained with firearms and attended a personal defense class."
He also said he knows "many teachers" who carry and would carry at work if they could.
However, one person is not so sure on the idea of arming teachers.
"In study after study it has been proven that civilians are not capable of properly discharging a weapon in times of extreme stress," said Nicole Reale. "There is a reason why law enforcement goes through hundreds of hours of training so that they can use their weapon accurately in stressful situations."
Reale added human bodies under stress releases adrenaline, which could impact response time and accuracy when firing a weapon under those conditions.
Law enforcement officials, she added, are taught to properly fire weapons under stressful conditions. Regular citizens responding to gunfire during a shootout, she added, could lead to additional lives being lost.
"Even police (officers) kill innocent civilians during shoot outs, so are we really supposed to put our trust in John Wayne, civilian?" she asked. "You need a comprehensive approach to this problem and that includes gun control."