The National Rifle Association (NRA) Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre has said that what is needed to protect US school children is "a plan of absolute protection", including guns in schools.
"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," the head of the lobby group, which opposes tighter controls on weapons, told a news conference on Friday.
LaPierre was speaking at the organisation's first news conference since a shooting one week ago at a Connecticut primary school that killed 20 young children and six adults.
Protesters disrupted the event, brandishing banners.
"NRA: blood on your hands," read one banner held up by a woman as LaPierre made a statement.
"NRA is killing our kids," read another, brandished by a man as he was led away by security.
"It was an event in which [the NRA] laid out what they wanted to say, with no questions by journalists," said Al Jazeera's John Terrett, reporting from Washington. "It's part of a national debate about how to protect schools."
The 4.3 million-member NRA had largely disappeared from public debate after the shootings in Newtown, choosing atypical silence as a strategy as the nation sought answers after the rampage.
"Out of respect for the families, and as a matter of common decency, we have given time for mourning, prayer and a full investigation of the facts before commenting"
The NRA took down its Facebook page and kept silent on Twitter.
Unlike its actions in the wake of other mass shootings, the group did not put out a statement of condolence for the victims while simultaneously defending the rights of gun owners.
That strategy, however, changed, starting with the news conference on Friday.
In the lead-up, the group re-activated its Facebook account - it has 1.7 million fans - and its Twitter feed now warns supporters that "President [Barack] Obama supports gun control measures, including reinstating an assault weapons ban".
The group also announced that LaPierre planned to appear Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" programme.
It is an about-face from the group that ignored requests for comment and shunned media attention for four days following last week's shootings.
|Obama has demanded "real action, right now" against US gun violence and called on the NRA to join the effort [AFP]
"The National Rifle Association of America is made up of four million mums and dads, sons and daughters and we were shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders in Newtown," the group said in its first public statement since the shootings, released Tuesday.
"Out of respect for the families, and as a matter of common decency, we have given time for mourning, prayer and a full investigation of the facts before commenting."
The group also promised "meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again" and announced plans for Friday's news conference on what is, in reality, the last real work day before Washington scatters for the long Christmas holiday.
Since the slayings, Obama has demanded "real action, right now" against US gun violence and called on the NRA to join the effort.
Moving quickly after several congressional gun-rights supporters said they would consider new legislation to control firearms, the president said this week he wants proposals on reducing gun violence that he can take to Congress by January.