NRA report calls for armed guard in every US school
The National Rifle Association (NRA) unveiled a report that recommends employing an armed security officer – as well as any willing teachers - to every school in the country as anti-gun groups assail the plan.
The 225-page ‘National School Shield Initiative’, announced by
former Republican Congressman Asa Hutchinson at a press conference
on Tuesday, puts forward eight recommendations it says would
bolster school security nationwide.
The suggestions in the report include a special training program that would prepare school resource officers (SRO) how to respond in crisis situations, changes in state laws that would permit SROs to carry firearms on school property, enhanced coordination between law enforcement agencies and schools on security issues, and federal and NRA-sponsored resources to facilitate those requirements.
The single recommendation that has triggered outrage among the anti-gun crowd – coming as it does after the Sandy Hook school shooting, which claimed 26 lives, 20 of them children - is that armed security officers would be stationed inside of every school.
Hutchinson defended that position, saying that the presence of armed school personnel would reduce the number of fatalities and casualties.
"We looked at the technology of the schools, we looked at the interior and an exterior doors, access controls, architecture and design of the schools. And then we look at the armed officers whether it's an SRO, which is a school resource officer, to the staff that may be armed or considering being armed," he said. "And obviously, we believe they make a difference in the various layers of security that add to school safety."
The report also envisions allowing school teachers to carry guns in the classroom - but only those who express an interest in being qualified for such a responsibility.
"Let me emphasize, this is not talking about all teachers," he said. "Teachers should teach. But if there is a personnel that has good experience and has an interest in it, and is willing to go through this training of, again, 40 to 60 hours that is totally comprehensive, then that is an appropriate resource that a school should be able to utilize."
Hutchinson cited the report’s findings, saying that SROs would be required to undergo 40-60 hours of training, as well as an extensive background check. He estimated the cost of the nationwide program at about $800-1,000 per person. While the report does not recommend a specific number of armed SROs per school, each should have “at least one.”
If there armed personnel in the school, it will save lives, he added.
Although the NRA says that it respected the independence of this task force in the course of its work, the report’s conclusions mirror those of Wayne LaPierre, the NRA's chief executive and executive vice president, who made an emotional plea for armed guards in America’s schools.
"If it's crazy to call for putting police and armed security in our schools to protect our children, then call me crazy," LaPierre said in an interview on NBC's Meet the Press. "I think the American people think it's crazy not to do it. It's the one thing that would keep people safe."
“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," he added.
Laura Murphy, director of the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office, said in a statement that the proposal "includes potentially radical elements, including getting the federal government in the business of supplying arms to teachers, without any evidence that doing so would make children safer."
"It is important to create a culture of trust between students and teachers, and arming teachers is the antithesis of that, especially in the 19 states where corporal punishment is still allowed in schools," Murphy said. "We are concerned about the potential civil liberties implications this proposal could have for students, who all too often are funneled from schools into the criminal justice system. We hope the NRA addresses these concerns and that Congress will reject any proposal that militarizes our schools."
In the aftermath of Sandy Hook, President Barack Obama pledged gun control legislation would be a "central issue" of his second term. The suggested measures include an assault weapons ban, a ban on high-capacity magazines, and universal background checks for gun owners.
Those measures, however, have come up against a formidable wall of opposition from Republican lawmakers, many of whom advocate strongly on behalf of the NRA.
The move by the White House also sparked massive hoarding of weapons.
The latest figures released by the FBI show that 2,495,440 routine background checks were performed in January of this year. That is the second-highest number since records began in 1998, and is exceeded only by the numbers for December 2012, which it hit a peak of 2,783,765.
Meanwhile, amid this heated national debate, the NRA says it hasn't yet decided on its position regarding the report’s findings.
"We need time to digest the full report," the NRA said in a statement. "We commend Asa Hutchinson for his rapid response in the aftermath of the Newtown tragedy, and we are certain the contributions he and his team have made will go a long way to making America's schools safer."