In an amazing 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."
The proposal mirrored the call by St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch, who had suggested the need to explore arming school staff in cases where schools did not have school resources officers.
That idea was met by opposition Thursday in a meeting with public school leaders.
The Parkway School District already has school resource officers (SROs) stationed at every middle and high school in the district. Creve Coeur Police are already contracted out to provide a SRO at Parkway Northeast Middle School and Bellerive Elementary.
Parkway North High School, Craig Elementary School and Ross Elementary, each located in unincorporated St. Louis County, shares a resource offier, according to Craig Principal Bill Senti.
On Thursday, Parkway Deputy Superintendent Desi Kirchhofer said the district was already in talks with the Chesterfield Police Department and the St. Louis County Police Department about having patrol officers provide regular check-ins at the elementary schools. County Police have made having a presence at elementary schools a priority since last Friday's shooting at Newtown.
"We have already decided to up the presence at our elementary schools," he said.
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.
Missouri's pro-gun culture is unlikely to change, State Senator John Lamping (R-Ladue) told Patch Thursday, barring a change in federal law. Lamping did not offer reaction to a proposed gun-related legislation in Jefferson City, including a bill in the Missouri General Assembly backed by Republicans in the majority which would allow school personnel to carry weapons.
State Represenative Jill Schupp (D-Creve Coeur) instead hopes to see tighter restrictions to encourage more responsible gun ownership.
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.
TELL US: Do you believe an armed officer in every school is the right approach? Or do you think tougher gun laws is necessary? Let us know in the comments below.
Patch Editor Frank Johnson contributed information for this report.