On Tuesday, a 12-person task force that functioned as part of the National Rifle Association-funded National School Shield Emergency Response Program released its comprehensive report on how to improve school safety and prevent future mass shootings.
The main findings were consistent with the NRA’s recommendation in the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut: Put armed guards in schools and/or have school staff prepare and equip school facilities for a potential threat.
“Teachers should teach, but if there is personnel that has interest and is willing to go through 40 to 60 hours of [firearms] training, then schools should be willing to [arm them],” said former GOP Congressman Asa Hutchinson, the Director of the National School Shield Task Force.
“The presence of an armed security personnel in a school adds a layer of security and diminishes the response time that is beneficial to the overall security,” Hutchinson explained.
However, Hutchinson also noted that no school should be forced to hire a school resource officer (sworn police officer(s) who work in school districts) or train a member of the faculty or staff on how to use a firearm. The bulk of the 225-page report expands the concepts of how to deter, detect, delay and respond to a threat like a shooter or shooting.
In an overly simplistic summary, suggestions include the armed guard, ensuring doors are locked when they’re supposed to be locked, install surveillance cameras and have someone monitor them, build a fence around the school, ensure staff, visitors and students always wear IDs, etc. On top of that, the plan explains procedures and strategies for school staff to protect students and themselves from a harm’s way.
The plan also offers solutions for how a school can fund any additional resources (by soliciting grants from federal agencies or fundraising) to hire an SRO. Lastly, there’s even a model bill designed to implement armed security in schools and remove the “gun free zone” status surrounding schools that’s already drafted for any willing lawmaker to introduce.
The rather in-depth school safety plan earned the endorsement of Mark Mattiolli, whose 6-year-old son James was one of the 20 children killed at Sandy Hook.
“As parents we send our kids off to school, and there are certain expectations and obviously at Sandy Hook those expectations weren’t met,” Mattiolli said at the Tuesday press conference. “This is recommendations for solutions. Real solutions that will make our kids safer.”
“Politics need to be set aside here, and I hope this doesn’t lead to name calling,” Mattiolli added.
Of course, politics is never set aside. The plan was panned by the American Federation of Teachers, which represents 1.5 million teachers and other workers.
“Today’s NRA proposal is a cruel hoax that will fail to keep our children and schools safe,” AFT President Randi Weingarten told POLITICO. “It is simply designed to assist gun manufacturers flood the nation and our schools with more guns and large magazine clips, which will simply lead to more violence.”
There were other complaints as well, specifically that Hutchinson did not include any mention of a ban on ‘assault’ weapons or standard capacity magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, something gun control advocates have suggested to reduce overall gun violence.
Hutchinson dismissed those charges, saying that his job was to examine ways to maximize school safety.
“We want the debate focused on school safety,” Hutchinson said. “I have not focused on the separate debate in Congress on firearms and how they should be dealt with.”
So far, the White House has only tepidly endorsed the idea of putting armed guards in schools. In a recent conference call with gun control supporters, Vice President Joe Biden said that other initiatives like universal background checks should take precedence over the push to increase security at schools.
“The last thing we need, and ask any teacher, is to arm teachers … Turn schools into armed camps,” Biden said.
“But what does make sense is if a school decides they want to have a school resource officer – that is a sworn shield, someone who is a sworn police officer, in or out of uniform, armed or unarmed, depending on what the school wants – in the school to be able to have contact with and build relationships with not only the staff but the students in that school,” he continued.
For more proof of this reluctance to embrace the task force’s plan, watch Asa Hutchinson’s appearance on Lawrence O’Donnell (video above). Then ask yourself, are those pro-gun control proponents and politicians on Capitol Hill really interested in finding solutions to prevent gun violence or are they just trying to score political points with their viewers and constituents?