The largest US gun rights lobbying organisation yesterday forcefully stuck to its call for placing armed police officers and security guards in every school as the best way to avoid shootings such as the recent massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.
Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the National Rifle Association (NRA), said his organisation would push Congress to pay for more school security guards and co-ordinate efforts to put former military and police officers in schools as volunteer guards.
"If it's crazy to call for putting police and armed security in our schools to protect our children, then call me crazy," LaPierre said in an interview broadcast on television. "The American people think it's crazy not to do it. It's the one thing that would keep people safe."
LaPierre also refused to support any new gun control legislation and contended that any fresh efforts by Congress to regulate guns or ammunition would not prevent mass shootings.
His comments on NBC television's Meet the Press reinforced the position that the NRA took on Friday when it broke its weeklong silence on the shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
LaPierre's remarks on Friday prompted widespread criticism, even on the front page of the conservative New York Post, which had the headline: "Gun Nut! NRA loon in bizarre rant over Newtown."
The NRA's stand has been described by some lawmakers as tone-deaf.
Congressman Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, said LaPierre blamed everything but guns for a series of mass shootings in recent years.
"Trying to prevent shootings in schools without talking about guns is like trying to prevent lung cancer without talking about cigarettes," Schumer said.
The NRA plans to develop a school emergency response programme that would include volunteers from the group's 4.3 million members to help guard children, and has named former US Congressman Asa Hutchinson, an Arkansas Republican, as national director of the programme.
Hutchinson said local districts should make decisions about armed guards in schools.
"I've made it clear that it should not be a mandatory law, that every school has this. There should be local choice, but absolutely, I believe that protecting our children with an armed guard who is trained is an important part of the equation," he told ABC's This Week.
Hutchinson, a former Homeland Security Department undersecretary, likened the debate on armed guards at schools to the discussion over whether to have armed federal air marshals on planes.
"It has increased the safety of the airlines, and it's not like it's an armed camp when you go on the airlines," he said.
"Are our children less important to protect than our air transportation? I don't think so. So I think it's a very reasonable approach."
Additional reporting by Bloomberg