Newtown shootings: Obama v the NRA

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Media captionWayne LaPierre, of the NRA, says Congress should "act immediately" to put armed police in US schools

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has a reputation as perhaps the most powerful lobby group in American politics.

There are varying reports on how much it spent during the last election, - some say it was much as $24m (£15m), others that it was slightly less. Whatever the number, it was a significant total.

The NRA has more than four million members. Many senators and congress members proudly boast if they are given an "A-rating" by the organisation.

Yet its news conference in response to the Newtown massacre felt nothing like the slick product of a group gifted in public relations.

Those who expected emollient words, hints of reasonable compromise and grave consideration of their opponents' plans were sorely disappointed.

Their leader, Wayne LaPierre, harangued the assembled press for over half an hour, impassioned, furious, and not a little eccentric in his fury.

'Difficult, fraught battle'

He talked of the way he had endured the mockery of the media, who hated gun owners; he talked of the "filthy pornography" of violent video games and listed some old films.

But the core of his argument was: "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."

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Image caption The Obama administration has promised to push for action on gun control

He asked how was it that banks and airports, the president and celebrities all had armed guards, but that children did not. He called for armed police at every school and offered a programme to train schools in security.

A recent opinion poll by Gallup suggests a majority of Americans - 53% - agree with his response to the murders, rather than a ban on assault rifles, which is supported by 43%.

You do not have to go too far on the internet to find those who believe far more than that.

There are those who believe that the president is plotting to take away their guns in a plan to impose an unspecified tyranny on America.

Yesterday I read a fairly mainstream outlet treating us to a comparison between Adolf Hitler and President Barack Obama.

The stage is set for a huge political and cultural battle in the new year.

Mr LaPierre's statement gave no hint of reflection, there was no glimmer of a suggestion that he thought he could win over opponents.

This was an outpouring of outrage that would delight those who agree with him. It was not a subtle appeal across the political spectrum, designed to make people stop and think that he has a point.

This is going to be a big battle. President Obama, in a video response to a 400,000 signature petition calling for gun control, says "we hear you", adding he will do everything in his power to ban assault rifles.

The president has decided that in the new year he will begin a difficult, fraught battle over one of the most divisive, emotional, issues in American politics.

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