A National Rifle Association task force unveiled its new proposal Tuesday aimed at protecting schools from gun violence. The 225-page report issued by the NRA-backed “National Shield Program” outlined eight recommendations to increase school safety, including arming designated staffers with weapons and offering a security training program.
Former Arkansas Congressman Asa Hutchinson, who was tapped to heads up the group, stressed the “independent” nature of the study at Tuesday’s press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. He said it’s geared toward three audiences: The NRA itself, state lawmakers and federal lawmakers.
Among its key recommendations, the report suggested offering voluntary 40-60 hour model training programs, state lawmakers consider allowing educators to pack heat to “improve response times” in these dangerous situations, greater federal funding to develop innovative safety programs and creating an online-based assessment tool that schools can use for free on the NRA website. Other proposals emphasized the need for more streamlined coordination between schools and local law enforcement officials.
Hutchinson told reporters the “Shield Program” centered their efforts on school safety, not new gun control proposals. “I have not focused on the separate debate in Congress about firearms and how they should be handled,” he said.
Mark Mattiolli, the father of a child killed in the Newtown shootings, also spoke at the event. He said “I applaud” the NRA’s new proposals.
“The National Rifle Association is determined to continue to use every asset at its disposal to help make America’s children safe at school,” the NRA said in response to Hutchinson’s report. “We need time to digest the full report. 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.”
Raising some red flags, the ACLU said there’s not enough evidence to support the “potentially radical elements” of the NRA’s plan and it could violate students’ civil liberties. “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,” said Laura W. Murphy, director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office, in a statement emailed to msnbc.com. “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. 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.”
NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre first announced the initiative pushing for more armed guards in schools last December, following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. One week after the shooting, LaPierre said, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Twenty young kids and six educators died in the tragedy, prompting a nationwide re-evaluation of gun laws and ways to prevent similar incidents.
In January, Vice President Joe Biden rejected the notion of adding more guns as a method to crack down on gun violence, calling it a “terrible mistake.” He said, “The last thing we need to do is be arming school teachers and administrators.”