LOS ANGELES -- Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had some harsh words for the National Rifle Association Friday after the gun lobby group called for an armed security presence at all schools nationwide.
"That was a commercial," said Villaraigosa on MSNBC's "Live with Thomas Roberts" show. "That was not a press conference. I’ve never been to a press conference where you can’t ask questions and you just do a diatribe in the way that he did today.”
Villaraigosa was reacting to a press conference in which NRA Vice President Wayne LaPierre called for a mix of federally-funded police officers and a volunteer corps of retired or off-duty security professionals to stand watch on campuses during school hours. During the press conference, LaPierre claimed that "the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."
But questions about the feasibility (not to mention the desirability) of the NRA's plan remain. While it doesn't go as far as some politicians' calls to arm teachers, the prospect of a militarized school environment seems absurd to educators who think of school as a nurturing, caring place for young minds.
LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, a former teacher, didn't mince words in response to the NRA's press conference. In a blog for the Huffington Post, Ridley-Thomas wrote:
Incredibly, their solution for ending this scourge on our nation is to harken back to the Wild West, to have more guns, now in our schools. The NRA is an organization that profits mightily by working in lockstep with gun manufacturers to fill our neighborhoods with weapons capable of mass destruction, so it is no surprise they would use this tragedy to try to make more money.
"I have never heard a more cynical and outrageous proposal," Ridley-Thomas continued. "Just what we need, more George Zimmermans."
Neither the Los Angeles Police Department nor the Los Angeles Unified School District had any comment in reaction to the NRA's proposal. But in the wake of the Newtown shooting, the LAPD have stepped up patrols at local elementary and middle schools (there is already a police presence in all LAUSD high schools), promising daily visits. The LAPD has also moved up its already-scheduled gun buyback event to the day after Christmas to try to get more guns off the street faster.
In a statement issued shortly after the Newtown shooting, LA superintendent John Deasy released these details about the current state of security at LAUSD schools.
We currently deploy 200 officers in the field, including one stationed at each of our high schools throughout the school day. The current total force of 350 officers is close to the number we had before the massive budget cuts began in 2007. In addition, officers establish close relationships with school sites, and work with parents and administrators to report suspicious behavior and any possible threats of any kind.
Under the leadership of Chief Steve Zipperman, we’ve also strengthened our ties to all the law enforcement agencies that patrol areas covered by the LAUSD. We routinely share information, and seek to make best practices even better. Today’s press conference is another indication of how well we work as a team to protect students.
LaPierre delivered his comments one week after a school shooting in Newtown, Conn., left 20 children and six educators dead. Since the massacre, people have called on political leaders to make changes to gun control laws. President Barack Obama has also established a gun violence task force and pressed legislators to reinstate the assault weapons ban in response to the Newtown tragedy.
The renewed focus on guns and their role in American society has put pressure on the nation's biggest gun lobby group, and LaPierre let loose on the NRA's critics during the Friday press conference. During his speech, he blamed Hollywood blockbusters, violent video games, music videos and the "national media machine" for contributing to a culture of "murder as a way of life."
LaPierre also accused unnamed politicians of trying to "exploit tragedy for political gain" and claimed that people were too busy directing "noise and anger" at the NRA instead of finding a way to protect students in schools.