A task force launched by the National Rifle Association after the Dec. 14 school shooting in Newtown, Conn., has come back with a report that recommends the creation of programs that give additional weapons training to school resource officers as well as "selected and designated school personnel" who could then carry arms.
The task force is also recommending to states that haven't already got such laws on the books that they consider changing their statutes to allow trained school personnel, including teachers, to be armed while on the job.
Former Republican Rep. Asa Hutchinson, R-Ark., who led the task force, outlined its findings and recommendations on Tuesday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. After his appearance, copies of the report and a summary of its recommendations and findings were posted online.
One of the main reasons to have more armed personnel in schools, Hutchinson said, is to cut "response time" to attacks. The American Civil Liberties Union was among organizations that issued statements critical of the task force's report. "It is important to create a culture of trust between students and teachers, and arming teachers is the antithesis of that," Laura Murphy, director of the ACLU's Washington legislative office, said. The National Education Association, which represents 3 million educators, has previously said "guns have no place in our schools. Period."
But Mark Mattioli, whose 6-year-old son was among the 20 children killed during the December attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School appeared with Hutchinson to say he supports the task force's work and believes it has come up with "real solutions that will make our kids safer." Other parents of children killed at the school have spoken out in favor of tougher gun laws and against the NRA's opposition to such changes.
Among the other suggestions in the task force's report:
-- Creation of an "online self assessment tool" that school administrators could use to gauge the adequacy of their districts' security programs.
-- Changes in state education policies to require that school districts conduct safety assessments.
-- That the NRA continue the "National School Shield" program launched by the task force and turn it into an "umbrella organization to advocate and support school safety."
Many of the recommendations particularly those about putting more armed personnel in the nation's schools echo NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre's statement in December that "the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."
Hutchinson, though, told reporters that there is "no guarantee the NRA will accept these recommendations." He said one proposal to arm retired police officers and other volunteers and have them patrol schools was dropped due to opposition from school superintendents.
As The Associated Press adds, the task force released its report "a week before the Senate begins debating gun control legislation. The [NRA] opposes the main component of that bill expanding background checks to cover nearly all purchases of firearms.