NRA chief to call for ‘immediate blanket’ of armed school security

The National Rifle Association (NRA) will amplify its calls for armed guards in every school when it testifies at a Senate hearing Wednesday on gun violence.

According to his scheduled testimony, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre will tell lawmakers that lax enforcement of existing laws combined with holes in the mental health system — not lenient gun laws — have led to the rash of mass shootings that have plagued the country in recent years.

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“It’s time to throw an immediate blanket of security around our children,” LaPierre will tell lawmakers Wednesday as he promotes a new NRA program — dubbed the School Shield Program — designed to train armed guards at every school in the country. The group has tapped former Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark.) to lead the initiative.

“While we’re ready to participate in a meaningful effort to solve these pressing problems, we must respectfully — but honestly and firmly — disagree with some members of this committee, many in the media, and all of the gun control groups on what will keep our kids and our streets safe,” LaPierre will tell the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to prepared remarks released by the gun lobbying group Tuesday.

“Law-abiding gun owners will not accept blame for the acts of violent or deranged criminals. Nor do we believe the government should dictate what we can lawfully own and use to protect our families,” LaPierre will say.

The hearing is a direct response to last month's shooting massacre in Newtown, Conn., where a lone gunman with an assault rifle and high-capacity ammunition magazines stormed into an elementary school and killed 26 people, 20 of them young children.

In response, President Obama launched a task force, led by Vice President Biden, designed to develop a comprehensive strategy for reducing gun violence. Released earlier this month, Biden’s recommendations include steps to bolster mental health services and improve the background check system for gun purchases, as well as efforts to ban certain firearms and accessories. Those restrictions have the toughest road on Capitol Hill, where GOP leaders — and some centrist Democrats — are joining the NRA in pushing back against new limits on gun ownership.

LaPierre's testimony is noticeably toned down from the combative speech he gave a week after the Newtown massacre, in which he attacked Obama, Congress, the media and the entertainment industry for what he called a failure to combat gun violence. Still, he's not letting those players off the hook, instead going after the Justice Department for what he calls “a dramatic collapse in federal gun prosecutions in recent years” and taking on gun reformers for promoting “what does not work.”

The Judiciary Committee is headed by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), a gun owner who indicated earlier this month that he's particularly interested in examining efforts to improve the background check system for gun sales, improve mental health services and fight gun trafficking.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has vowed to bring to the floor whatever legislation passes out of the Judiciary panel.