National Rifle Association (NRA) task force unveiled a student-safety plan Tuesday that dismisses the idea of new gun controls in favor of the placement of armed staff in every school.
At a Washington press briefing crawling with armed security, former Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark.), the head of the NRA task force, said a focus on tougher gun laws is "inadequate" to protect the nation's schoolchildren from gun violence in the wake of December's Newtown, Conn., elementary school massacre. He released a 225-page report outlining a "School Shield" program that calls instead for new funding to train school staff to carry firearms on site.
"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 [of that school]," Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson, the former administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, was quick to concede that not all districts will want – or will have the resources – to train and maintain armed guards in their schools.
"We want to make sure that our best practices and our resources are available to them, whatever decision they make," Hutchinson said. But he emphasized that students would be safest if school personnel are armed.
"It is a plus," he said.
The School Shield report includes a host of other recommendations, including changes in state laws to allow school staff to carry firearms, an increase in coordination between schools and local law enforcement agencies, even architectural tweaks to make a school's door hinges tougher to breach.
Most of the details of the plan, however, remain vague. Hutchinson said he did not know, for instance, how much it would cost to maintain armed staff in a school. And the task force declined to make specific recommendations about what kinds of weapons would be most effective in protecting schools, or how many armed staff should be maintained per student. Those decisions, Hutchinson said, are better left for local officials.