WASHINGTON (CNN) — The Navy Yard shooting further proves that military installations need more robust security and more firearms, the CEO of the National Rifle Association said Sunday.
In the NRA’s first response to last week’s mass shooting in Washington, Wayne LaPierre argued the amount of time it took for first responders to kill the shooter could have been drastically shortened had Navy Yard personnel been armed with their own guns.
“This was a tragedy that should not have happened,” LaPierre said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” arguing that a naval base just a few miles from Congress and the White House should not be “largely left unprotected.”
“That can’t stand,” he said.
A week after the Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school massacre in December, LaPierre drew loud criticism when he called for more armed guards in schools. Gun rights activists frequently argue that gun violence is less likely to occur in places where staff and personnel are equipped with firearms and strong security.
“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” LaPierre famously said back in December.
Asked Sunday if the shooting at a military base undermines that argument, LaPierre said the Navy Yard was poorly equipped. “There weren’t enough good guys with guns. When the good guys with guns got there, it stopped,” he said.
While the Navy Yard has its own police force, there were only seven officers working Monday, a police officer and a union official told CNN. It took more than 30 minutes for police to stop the shooter, who killed 12 civilians and contractors Monday morning.
“We need to turn 30 minutes before they bring down the shooter into seven seconds,” LaPierre said. He also pointed out that members of the military with firearm training are “largely disarmed on our military bases.”
“We need to look at letting the men and women that know firearms … do what they do best – which is protect and survive,” he said.
While a few lawmakers used the Navy Yard shooting to try to drum up support for gun control legislation, those efforts didn’t catch on with the same uproar as they did after Newtown, when 20 children and six adults were killed.
The elementary school shooting led to votes in Congress on a package related to gun violence, including a bipartisan amendment that would have expanded background checks for purchases of firearms at gun shows and online. However, the Senate fell short of the votes needed to proceed with the gun package.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters last week he didn’t have the votes to bring back the legislation, and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, said he doubts the latest shooting will change any minds.
“I’m not going to go out there and just beat the drum for the sake of beating the drum,” he said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “There has to be people willing to move off the position they’ve taken. They’ve got to come to that conclusion themselves. And I’m still talking to everybody, and I welcome everyone’s input if they think that we can make some adjustments and make them comfortable.”
President Barack Obama called for a continued fight for gun control but did not lay out any specific actions.
“As long as there are those who fight to make it as easy as possible for dangerous people to get their hands on guns, then we’ve got to work as hard as possible for the sake of our children,” he said at a dinner in Washington for the Congressional Black Caucus. “We’ve got to be the ones who are willing to do more work to make it harder.”
As details emerge about the Navy Yard shooter’s troubled past, the more likely route in Congress may be a legislative track focused on improving the mental health system. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-New Hampshire, said she plans to reintroduce legislation that enhances mental health services in schools. The measure had overwhelming support in the Senate earlier this year but failed to go anywhere because it was attached to the gun control package.
It also may be something that everyone can agree on. The NRA, for example, has long been supportive of efforts to keep guns out of the hands of dangerously ill people; the organization backed the 2007 law that encourages states to report such individuals to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
However, only about half of states have started doing so. They face an array of logistical, technological and privacy obstacles in reporting those records, according to reports from government agencies and the Congressional Research Office.
“The Aurora shooter in Colorado gets checked and is cleared, the Tucson shooter gets checked and is cleared, Aaron Alexis (the Navy Yard shooter) goes through the federal and state system and gets cleared because the mental health system makes him unrecognizable,” LaPierre said Sunday.
Gun control supporters, however, made it clear in the last week they’re not going to stop pushing for expanded background checks, the same measure that failed earlier this year in Congress.
“We’re not giving up. It will happen,” said Sandy Phillips, who lost her daughter in the Aurora movie theater shooting. “We need to expand those background checks so this kind of thing doesn’t continue to happen.”
Phillips, who appeared on “Meet the Press” after LaPierre, argued more guns are “certainly not the answer” and “just muddies the issue.”