Democrats call NRA’s plan to arm school staff a “distraction”, Feinstein will introduce new assault weapons bill

Democratic lawmakers criticized the National Rifle Association’s plan to arm teachers and volunteer security guards at schools as an “inadequate” response to the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. 

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) called the NRA’s proposal a “distraction” designed to prevent lawmakers from addressing the “common denominator” of the recent spate deadly mass shootings: “Easy access to killing machines” such as the military-style semi-automatic assault weapon used in the Newton shooting.

“The NRA’s blanket call to arm our schools is really nothing more than a distraction,” said Feinstein. “It’s a distraction from the availability of military-style assault weapons on our streets, in our schools, used at malls, used at work places, used in movie theaters, and they allow for much death and destruction. It’s a distraction from the prevalence of large ammunition feeding devices that allows shooters to expel 20, 30, 60, 100 and even more bullets. And it’s a distraction from how easy it is to purchase weapons at gun shows with no background checks at all.”

Twenty-six people – including 20 children between the ages 6 to 7 – were killed on Dec. 14 when a heavily-armed gunman, identified as 20-year-old Adam Lanza, forced his way inside Sandy Hook Elementary and shot students and teachers with a semi-automatic assault rifle.

Many of the children who died had sustained between 3 to 11 gunshot wounds and most appeared to have been shot from across the room, according to Dr. H. Wayne Carver, Connecticut’s Chief Medical Examiner. 

Read more: COMMENTARY: NRA breaks silence over Newtown school shooting with a sales pitch for more guns

A week after the Newtown shooting, NRA held a press conference calling for schools to arm their teachers and security staff.

“As brave and heroic and as self-sacrificing as those teachers were in those classrooms and as prompt and professional and well-trained as those police were when they responded, they were unable – through no fault of their own – unable to stop him,” said Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice President of the NRA.“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

But Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) stressed that having armed guards at schools likely wouldn’t have stopped an assailant carrying powerful assault weapons.

“Many of the State Police who spoke to me…said that the killer was so heavily armed that they doubted they could have stopped him with their armament that they ordinarily carry,” said Blumenthal.

Armed guards didn’t stop Columbine massacre

The 1999 Columbine High School shooting offers a clear example of how even police officers could be easily overpowered by assault rifles, semi-automatic weapons, and sawed-off shotguns.

Two armed Sheriff’s deputies stationed at Columbine couldn’t stop the gunmen – Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold – from killing 13 and wounding two dozen students and teachers in 1999.

According to transcripts from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, the two armed deputies exchanged fire twice with Harris.

Sheriff’s Deputy Neil Gardner, who was 60 yards away, fired 4 shots at Harris outside of the school. Harris returned fire at Gardner and was able to run back into the school building and continue the shooting.

The second gunfire exchange took place after Harris was inside the school building and began shooting out of a broken window. “Jefferson County Deputy Paul Smoker [sp] fires three rounds at him and the gunman disappears from the window. Smoker continues to hear gunfire from inside the building as more students flee from the school,” according to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s transcripts.

“There were two armed law enforcement officers at that campus and you see what happened – 15 dead [including the 2 gunmen], 23 wounded,” said Feinstein, who pointed out that about a third of all public schools – more than 28,000 – in the U.S. already have armed security staff. “Should we have a conversation about school security? Yes. Should we have a conversation about mental illness and the culture of violence? Yes. But we can’t ignore the common denominator in all of these deadly massacres: Access – easy access – to killing machines.”

Feinstein to introduce assault weapons ban 

Feinstein announced in the wake of the Newtown shooting that she will be introducing an assault weapons bill in early 2013. Her bill would target weapons that are “designed to kill people in close combat and military situations.”

Feinstein noted that the assault weapons being sold today are more advanced and lethal than the ones available when the first assault weapons ban was enacted in 1994. For instance, there are devices that can convert a semi-automatic weapon to function as a fully-automatic weapon. High capacity magazines that hold more than 10 bullets are also readily available.

Feinstein’s bill would:

(1) ban the sale, importation, and manufacturing of semi-automatic weapons that can accept more than 10 rounds of ammunition;

(2) stop the manufacturing and sales of high-capacity magazines capable of storing more than 10 rounds of ammunition;

(3) require owners of assault weapons to register their guns and submit to a background check under the Federal Firearms Act;

(4) provide a buyback program for assault weapons.

Weapons legally obtained prior to the assault weapons ban would be exempt.

The bill, Feinstein stated, would be “carefully focused on the most dangerous guns that have killed so many people over the years while protecting the rights of gun owners by exempting hundreds of weapons that fall outside the bill’s scope.”

The 1994 assault weapons ban expired in 2004. Since then, according to Feinstein, “assault weapons have been used in 459 incidents, resulting in 385 deaths and 455 injuries.”

Feinstein acknowledged that her assault weapons bill will face an uphill fight on Capitol Hill.

“This is a fight that the American people are going to have to stand up and stiffen their spine. Either you’re going to let the NRA take over and dictate to this country or you’re going to enable your elected representatives to vote their conscience based on their experience, based on their sense of right, based on their need to protect their schools, their malls, their workplaces, and their businesses,” said Feinstein. “America cannot be turned into an armed camp, where the safety of our citizens is jeopardized by the rights of a few who don’t want anything to curtail their gun rights no matter how powerful those weapons are.”


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