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 the Holly Springs-Hickory Flat Patch Facebook page also supported LaPierre's statements.
Toni Brookshire, a parent of three children in three schools in Cherokee, noted she is "all for this idea."
Charlye Marie added she thought it was a "wonderful idea," as it could prevent a larger number of unnecessary deaths.
"They will hopefully be stopped before they can reach the unarmed staff and children," she said. "Hopefully, having armed security will also deter those that are contemplating committing such a crime."
Rebecca Fein, who said she believes everyone should own a gun, added she thought it would be a good idea if all Americans were trained on guns and gun safety.
But that won't solve everything, she said. Along with valuing life, she also said it's time to erase the stigma attached to mental illnesses.