NRA calls for armed guards in schools
Democratic Senator-elect Chris Murphy, who spoke to the group on Wednesday evening, called the NRA comments "the most revolting, tone-deaf statement I've ever heard."
Mr LaPierre's comments came at the end of a week when president Barack Obama commissioned a new White House task force to find a way to quell violence, a challenge in a nation with a strong culture of individual gun ownership.
"We have to have a comprehensive way in which to respond to the mass murder of our children that we saw in Connecticut," vice president Joe Biden, who heads the task force, said yesterday.
The US constitution guarantees the right to bear arms and hundreds of millions of weapons are in private hands. About 11,100 Americans died in gun-related killings in 2011, not including suicides, according to preliminary data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some US politicians have called for swift passage of an assault weapons ban.
Some Newtown residents have already launched an effort aimed at tightening rules on gun ownership.
"What I feel is a sense of guilt because I've been a strong advocate of gun control for years," said John Dewees (61) who was in downtown Newtown, where a makeshift memorial rose several feet around two Christmas trees with teddy bears and flower bouquets. "I wish I'd been more vocal. You wonder, had we all been, could we have averted this?"
The attack, which killed 20 first graders ages six and seven, shattered the illusion of safety in this close-knit town of 27,000 people where many residents knew someone affected by the attacks.
"There's just so many connections," said Jay Petrusaitis, whose son was in the same high school class as the gunman.
Churches as far south as Florida and at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, rang their bells. Connecticut governor Dannel Malloy had called for residents of his state to observe the moment of silence to mark a week since a 20-year-old gunman killed his mother and then stormed Sandy Hook Elementary School. He killed a total of 28 people that day, including six school teachers and staff in a rampage that ended when he turned his gun on himself.
Governors in Maine, Illinois, Michigan and several other states also called for moments of silence.
The gunman, Adam Lanza, used a military-style assault rifle and police said he carried hundreds of bullets in high-capacity magazines, as well as two handguns. The weapons were legally purchased and registered to his mother, Nancy, his first victim.