* NRA wants police in schools by end of holiday break
* New York mayor criticizes "paranoid, dystopian vision"
* Churches up and down U.S. East Coast ring bells
* Four dead in shooting Friday in Pennsylvania
WASHINGTON/NEWTOWN, Conn., Dec 21 (Reuters) - The powerful
U.S. gun rights lobby called on Friday for armed police in all
U.S. schools within weeks as Americans remembered the victims of
the Newtown, Connecticut, school massacre with a moment of
National Rifle Association Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre
said attempts to keep guns out of schools were ineffective and
made schools more vulnerable than airports, banks and other
public buildings patrolled by armed guards.
"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good
guy with a gun," LaPierre told a news briefing, calling on
lawmakers to station armed police officers in all schools by the
time children return from the Christmas break in January.
The NRA announcement came a short time after bells chimed
and Americans bowed their heads to remember the 20 students, all
6 or 7 years old, and six adults killed by a gunman who opened
fire with a semi-automatic assault rifle last Friday at Sandy
Hook Elementary School in Newtown.
"Does anybody really believe that the next Adam Lanza isn't
planning his attack on a school he's already identified at this
very moment?" LaPierre asked at the NRA briefing in Washington.
LaPierre said the news media and violent video games shared
blame for the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.
His remarks were twice interrupted by protesters who unfurled
signs and shouted "stop the killing."
The slaughter of so many young children has rekindled fierce
debate about U.S. gun laws. This week, some lawmakers called for
swift passage of an assault-weapons ban and President Barack
Obama commissioned a task force to find a way to quell violence,
a challenge in a nation with a strong culture of gun ownership.
LaPierre did not take questions at the news conference. His
comments drew a sharp response from gun-control advocates.
"They offered a paranoid, dystopian vision of a more
dangerous and violent America where everyone is armed and no
place is safe," said New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
About 50 pro-gun-control protesters rallied outside the
downtown Washington hotel where the NRA held its event.
"They were blaming it on all kinds of other things instead
of guns themselves," said Medea Benjamin, co-director of women's
peace group Code Pink, who was escorted out of the briefing
after holding up a poster that read "NRA blood on your hands."
Another mass shooting occurred on Friday when a gunman
killed three people and wounded three state troopers before
being killed in a shootout in Frankstown Township, Pennsylvania.
'SENSE OF GUILT'
To remember the school massacre, Connecticut Governor Dannel
Malloy observed a moment of silence with mourners at 9:30 a.m.
EST (1430 GMT) and governors from Maine to California asked
residents to follow suit. Church bells rang in tree-lined
Newtown, and up and down the East Coast.
The attack shattered the illusion of safety in Newtown, a
town of 27,000 people where some residents have already launched
an effort aimed at tightening rules on gun ownership. A newly
formed group calling itself "Newtown United" met this week to
develop a strategy to influence the gun debate.
Democratic Senator-elect Chris Murphy, who spoke to the
group on Wednesday, called the NRA comments "the most revolting,
tone-deaf statement I've ever heard."
The NRA proposal would take one of every seven U.S. police
officers off the streets during school days, based on a Reuters
analysis of U.S. government data.
Gun rights advocates were quick to back the NRA proposal.
"They have come up with an idea that is immediately usable,"
said Joseph Tartaro, executive editor of The Gun Mag, a
publication of the Second Amendment Foundation.
But Brian Giattina, a school board member in Birmingham,
Alabama, said it would send the wrong message to children,
teachers and parents.
"It tells them we have to have a gun to protect them. It is
a complex problem that needs to involve mental health,
education, law enforcement and the community," he said.
Chris Ennis, 37, of Denver, Colorado, who said he shot his
first gun at 7 years old, called the NRA suggestion "misguided."
"I can't help but think that with armed guards on duty, our
schools only lack iron bars and a perimeter of barbed wire from
becoming a prison," said Ennis, the son of a long-time English
teacher who himself has a son entering kindergarten
The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the
right to bear arms and hundreds of millions of weapons are in
The right is closely guarded by gun advocates, even though
about 11,100 Americans died in gun-related killings in 2011, not
including suicides, according to preliminary data from the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In the Newtown shootings, the gunman used a military-style
rifle and carried two handguns which were legally registered to
his mother, who Lanza shot and killed before the massacre.
ECHOES OF COLUMBINE
The NRA proposal was similar to its call after the 1999
shooting spree at Columbine High School in Colorado, when two
teenagers killed 12 fellow students and a teacher before
committing suicide. That school had an armed sheriff's deputy on
duty who was unable to stop the shooting.
At that time, Congress funded a "cops in schools" program,
though many schools dropped the officers after the federal aid
that paid for the program ran out.
A security consultant to the National Association of
Secondary School Principals said armed guards would improve
school safety but said it is not clear one would have prevented
the carnage at Sandy Hook.
"He might have stopped it. He might have shortened it. He
might have been the first one killed," said consultant Bill
The head of the largest U.S. teachers union called the NRA
proposal "out of touch."
"If your purpose is to reduce gun violence in schools, then
the solution isn't to add more guns to schools," said Dennis Van
Roekel, president of the National Education Association.