WASHINGTON -- A task force working for the National Rifle Association recommended yesterday that at least one armed guard be stationed on every campus in America as part of a three-month review of how to make schools safer following the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn.
Asa Hutchinson, a former GOP congressman from Arkansas and former head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, said his group did not examine, and has no opinion on, the gun control legislation the Senate will consider next week. He said any plan that did not include specific school safety proposals would be inadequate. "You can address assault weapons and it doesn't stop someone bringing in a .45-caliber firearm into school," he said.
Hired by the NRA as a consultant, he unveiled the group's 225-page report at the National Press Club in Washington. More than a dozen NRA-hired armed guards were present, instructing reporters and photographers where they could stand and walk. A bomb-sniffing dog accompanied one guard.
Mark Mattioli, whose son James, 6, was killed in the Newtown shootings in December, applauded the task force at the news conference. "This is a recommendation for solutions, real solutions that will make our kids safer," he said.
"Schools must be safe, nurturing learning environments for our students, which is why we are opposed to proposals to arm educators or turn our schools into armed fortresses," said Randi Weingarten, president of the union American Federation of Teachers.
The School Shield Task Force made eight recommendations, including training programs for school resource officers, online school security assessments, improved federal education and funding, and additional coordination between schools and law enforcement.
The NRA provided Hutchinson with up to $1 million in expenses for the report. It said yesterday it still needed to review the study. The most significant recommendation called for arming school employees with a handgun, shotgun or semiautomatic rifle after 40 to 60 hours of training and changes in state laws. But individual schools would still decide about whether to have armed guards.
President Barack Obama's recommendations unveiled in January included hiring 1,000 more school resource officers, some of whom could be armed. The Senate package of proposals includes requiring background checks for all firearms purchases and increasing penalties for gun traffickers. Obama will travel to Denver on Wednesday to push the legislation.