National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Rick Jervis, USA TODAY
Newtown resident Betsy Paynter watched the NRA's announcement live on television Friday. Midway through the speech by NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, who called for armed guards in every school in the USA, she turned off the TV.
"Completely off the mark," said Paynter, 46, a marketing executive with two children in middle school in Newtown. "There's a need for security systems but not for someone else to have a gun in the school. It's not what you want your kindergartner to see."
Putting more guns in school will only encourage gunmen and militias to further stockpile weapons, Paynter said. "That's just encouraging more fear," she said.
Several other Newtown residents said they found La Pierre's comments insensitive and disappointing. Many had hoped the nation's top gun lobby, in its first comments since 20 children and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook elementary school Dec. 14, would be more conciliatory.
The fact that the NRA announced it will be supporting an initiative to put more armed guards in school just an hour after the embattled community observed a moment of silence for the dead showed poor taste, Paynter said.
Even before the press conference ended, Facebook posts by Newtown residents were starting to appear criticizing the NRA's timing and announcement, she said.
"You can't get any more rude than that," she said. "It's really ugly."
Newtown resident David Stout, 49,an energy consultant and hunter, said he had hoped to hear an honest announcement from the NRA regarding background checks on all gun sales or closing other loopholes - not putting more armed guards in schools.
"Folks in Newtown are appalled by that suggestion," said Stout, who owns several hunting rifles. "I understand we want to protect our kids, but there are other ways to do that. We don't want to turn our schools into prisons."
Stout is a member of a grass-roots groups formed after the Dec. 14 shooting called Newtown United, which supports the victims' families and is advocating tighter gun rules. He said it was "ridiculous" for the NRA to blame the media and video games for such mass shootings and not mention the easy accessibility to assault rifles and ammunition.
"It's ridiculous we can't all come together and say, 'Ok, what makes sense?'" Stout said. "Something has to change."
He added: "More guns is not the solution."
Martin Blanco, 49, a stay-at-home Newtown dad, said the NRA missed a real opportunity to endear residents of Newtown and across the USA with sensible recommendations on gun legislation. Instead, he called their suggestion of putting armed guards in schools "madness."
"Just an awful slap in the face, particularly to the people in Sandy Hook," he said.
"The overwhelming majority of people in this town will find it a foolish, self-serving statement that has no place in Newtown or the United States of America," he said.
Craig Mittleman, 50, a Newtown emergency physician, said he wasn't surprised by the NRA's position but was nonetheless appalled by the brazenness of the comments, especially coming just a week after the incident.
"Completely ludicrous," Mittleman said of LaPierre's suggestion of placing armed guards in schools. "It is an insensitive response at a time like this when there are families I know and have a connection with who have just sustained the greatest loss any human being can ever encounter."
Like others in Newtown, Mittleman said he had hoped to hear a more conciliatory tone from LaPierre and a sign that the gun lobby would cooperate with Congress to improve gun laws, not arm more Americans.
"I think even the most ardent gun owners in town are going to see the shame in that comment," he said.