The response by the powerful gun lobby group, the National Rifle Association (NRA), to the recent Sandy Hook school massacre has drawn strong criticism from across the political spectrum.

Anti-gun campaigners have voiced serious concern over the NRA's call for arming schools to confront such tragedies.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who champions strict gun control legislation, said the NRA's response was "a paranoid, dystopian vision of a more dangerous and violent America where everyone is armed and no place is safe".

Bloomberg said the NRA's suggestion was "a shameful evasion of the crisis facing our country. Instead of offering solutions to a problem they have helped create, they offered a paranoid, dystopian vision of a more dangerous and violent America where everyone is armed and no place is safe".

The NRA broke its silence exactly a week after a gunman in Newtown, Connecticut, went on a shooting spree killing 20 children and six adults.

The NRA's Executive Vice-president, Wayne La Pierre, said: "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," adding: "While some have tried to exploit tragedy for political gain, we have remained respectfully silent."

Even pro-gun advocates appeared to be reluctant to accept the NRA suggestion.

"Anyone who thought the NRA was going to come out today and make a common-sense statement about meaningful reform and safety was kidding themselves," said Mike Quigley, a Democrat politician from Illinois, according to the New York Times.

Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican Nominee Committee, told MSNBC that the NRA's remarks were "very disturbing. The idea that the message is 'Let's put a gun in the hands of teachers in our classroom' - I do not think that's where rank-and-file NRA members expected this to go."

The NRA response is likely to pose a big challenge to US President Barack Obama who has set up a task force on the issue headed by Vice-president Joe Biden. Biden has been asked to come up with "concrete proposals" within a month.

The association has a track record of blocking previous attempts aimed at bringing tighter gun control laws in the US.