A gun lobby-funded task force on school safety has apologized for a mistake in some of its key research in a national report released last week. The National Rifle Association-commissioned National School Shield Task Force combined the facts of two separate incidents involving guns in Minnesota, as was first reported online by The New York Times and later in more detail by Mother Jones.
The NRA-backed task force’s report used the bogus incident as one of its main examples allegedly illustrating how America’s schools remain vulnerable to armed shooters. Mark Follman, who wrote the Mother Jones story, appeared on The Last Word last Wednesday night to explain the mispresentation.
“We have corrected that detail in the report and sincerely apologize for the error,” the NRA-funded National School Shield Task Force said Monday in a statement to Talking Points Memo DC, an independent online news outlet. “We particularly regret any hurt the error may have caused to those who experienced or were close to those involved in either horrible event.”
Some research groups say they are not surprised that an NRA-funded report would prove to be less than accurate.
“There isn’t much that generally has been done by the NRA that does real research about the causes and solutions to America’s gun violence epidemic,” Lindsay Nichols, an attorney at the nonprofit California-based Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, told msnbc.com. “They have been a voice for gun manufacturers and the gun industry.”
The NRA-funded school safety task force recommended allowing school faculty, administrators and other personnel including hired guards to be trained to carry firearms on school property. Even though school safety groups across the United States maintain that, apart from a few exceptional cases, such as in a remote, rural school, only sworn police officers who are then further vetted and trained should carry firearms on school property.
The NRA-commissioned report also recommended that windows in many schools be either fortified or eliminated to enhance safety.
“For example, in 2010 a 16-year-old attacker killed six people hiding in a locked classroom in Hastings Middle School in Minnesota by shooting and subsequently stepping through a tempered glass window that ran vertically alongside the classroom door,” read the original Report of the National School Shield Task Force released last week, adding that the boy then reached through the broken window he just shot out to enter a locked classroom where he killed six victims.
That event never occurred. Instead, an eighth grader brandished a loaded handgun at teachers and students in two Middle School classrooms in Hastings, a suburb of St. Paul. But the child fired no shots before being tackled and subdued by a school police officer.
“It was the closest thing to a school shooting without firing a gun,” the Hasting police chief, Michael McMenomy, told the Star Tribune after the incident.
The NRA-funded task force used the bogus example to recommend either relocating such windows away from the door lock, or making the windows bulletproof.
“Bullet-proof windows on a first-grade classroom,” wrote David Firestone, a New York Times project editor, on the paper’s editorial page editor’s blog, Taking Note. “Why not add some barbed wire, too?”
The other incident involving a gun in a Minnesota school that the NRA-backed task force seems to have mixed up with the 2010 Hastings Middle School incident took place five years earlier, more than 270 miles away in northern Minnesota. A 16-year-old boy murdered his grandfather and his grandfather’s girlfriend before driving to Red Lake High School, where he killed five students and then himself.