Senators Say NRA’s Press Conference Meant To Shift Focus Away From Gun Control Measures

The senate’s leading proponents of gun safety rejected the National Rifle Association’s push for more firearms in schools in the aftermath of the Newtown shooting, calling the announcement a ploy to distract from the ongoing debate about limiting assault weapons and high capacity magazines.

“The NRA’s blanket call to arm our schools is really nothing more than a distraction. It’s a delay tactic,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said at a press conference Friday. “It’s a distraction from the availability of military style assault weapons…It is a distraction from the prevalence of large ammunition feeding devices that allow 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.”

Responding to the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre, Feinstein, along with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), said that one-third of the nation’s 99,000 schools already employ armed security and admitted that any decisions about expanding the use of guns should be made by local authorities. But guards, Feinstein argued, are typically unable to stop assailants armed with weapons that are capable of shooting many rounds of bullets.

She read from a police report on the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado, detailing the unsuccessful attempts of two armed officers to derail one of the shooters, Eric Harris:

FEINSTEIN: Jefferson Country Sheriffs Deputy Neil Gardner, the school’s Community Resource Officer, seeing Harris walking with his gun, kneeled over the top of his car and fired four shots. He was 60 yards from the gunman. Harris spun hard to the right and Gardner momentarily thought he had hit him. Seconds later, Harris began shooting again at the Deputy. After the exchange of gunfire, Harris ran back into the building. Gardner was able to get on the police radio and call for assistance from another Sheriffs unit. ‘Shots in the building, I need someone in the south lot with me.’ Later, another officer shot back at Harris as the student shot out a window. Again, according to the Sheriffs transcript. Harris, leaning out of a broken window, on the set of double doors into the school began shooting a rifle. Jefferson County Deputy Paul Smoker 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.

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Smoker later explained why police were unable to stop the shooters: “There was an unknown inside a school. We didn’t know who the ‘bad guy’ was but we soon realized the sophistication of their weapons. These were big bombs. Big guns. We didn’t have a clue who ‘they’ were.” Harris and Dylan Klebold were armed with 12-gauge Savage-Springfield 67H pump-action shotgun, a Hi-Point 995 Carbine 9 mm carbine with thirteen 10-round magazines, a 9 mm Intratec TEC-9 semi-automatic handgun with one 52-, one 32-, and one 28-round magazine and a 12-gauge Stevens 311D double-barreled sawed-off shotgun.

Feinstein has pledged to introduce legislation banning the sale, importation, and possession of assault weapons. It will also outlaw big clips, drums, or strips of big bullets. The measure would require registration of existing assault weapons.