Every U.S. school would have armed, trained personnel under a proposal funded by the powerful National Rifle Association and unveiled on Tuesday in response to December’s massacre at a Connecticut school.
The proposal of the National School Shield Task Force also includes security accords between schools and law enforcement, an online safety assessment tool for schools, state safety standards and improved federal coordination for school safety.
Asa Hutchinson, the panel’s director, said having a trained and armed security officer or staff member in each school was a key element of the proposal.
“Obviously, we believe they will make a difference in the various layers that make up school safety,” Hutchinson, a former congressman, told a news conference held under unusually heavy security.
“This is not talking about all teachers. Teachers should teach.”
Security officers and staffers would need 40 to 60 hours of training that would cost $800 to $1,000 each.
The NRA paid $1 million for the 225-page study. The 12-member panel included Ralph Basham, a former head of the U.S. Secret Service, police and security officers and five representatives from Phoenix RBT Solutions, a law enforcement training firm.
The report’s recommendations said the NRA could develop and carry out armed personnel training. Given school funding shortfalls, the National School Shield program also could step in with NRA backing to support safety programs.
The panel also called for adoption of a model state law for armed school staffers and a program to assess threats and support mental health of students.
The gun lobby’s proposal is in reaction to the December 14 massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, in which 20 students and six adults were killed.
Mark Matteoli, whose son James was among the slain Newtown students, said he welcomed the recommendations and applauded the panel’s work.
“This is recommendations for solutions, real solutions that will make our kids safer. And that’s what we need,” he told the news conference.
Hutchinson’s proposal was similar to the post-Newtown call by NRA Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre for armed guards in all U.S. schools. The suggestion drew strong criticism from gun control advocates and the biggest U.S. teachers’ union.
In a statement, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, called the new proposal a “cruel hoax” and said it would fail to keep schools safe. She urged Congress to act on gun-control legislation.
The liberal American Civil Liberties Union rejected Hutchinson’s report. It said the proposal could get the federal government in the business of supplying arms to teachers and heighten the risk that students could be funneled into the criminal justice system.
The Newtown massacre galvanized the U.S. debate over firearms, which are protected by the U.S. Constitution. No major gun legislation has passed Congress since 1994.
Lawmakers are scaling back President Barack Obama’s ambitions for sweeping gun control measures made after the Newtown killings.
Gun-control advocates say expanded background checks would be the most effective way to reduce gun violence. Opinion polls show that more than 90 percent of U.S. voters and 85 percent of gun owners support it.
While such a measure could pass the Democratic-controlled Senate, it faces long odds in the House of Representatives, where Republicans hold the majority.
The NRA, which claims 4.5 million members, instead wants the federal government to step up prosecutions under existing gun laws.
On the state level, legislative leaders in Connecticut said late on Monday that they had agreed to some of the toughest gun regulations in the nation and expected to adopt them this week.
Asked about the Connecticut legislation, Hutchinson said it would be “totally inadequate” for school safety.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Leslie Gevirtz and Eric Walsh)
Copyright 2013 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.
Copyright 2013 Capitol Hill Blue