The Washington Times - December 23, 2012, 09:59AM

Former Arkansas Rep. Asa Hutchinson said Sunday the focus in the wake of the shooting rampage in Newtown, Conn., should be on school safety, not gun regulations, as the country and Congress grapple with how to move forward to try to prevent such incidents from happening in the future.

“The debate should not be as much on legislation as it should be on school safety,” Mr. Hutchinson, who has been tapped by the National Rifle Association to head a national training and emergency response program sponsored by the group to develop a model security plan, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “Certainly that is a concern that’s been expressed … I can understand the skepticism, but I think school safety is the debate.”

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But later in the program, Sen. Joseph I. Liberman, Connecticut independent, said that the statements out of the NRA the past few days — Wayne LaPierre, the group’s executive vice president and CEO, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the country needs to prosecute more criminals with guns, not enact new gun laws — have been “really disheartening.” Mr. Lieberman has called for a holistic task force to examine violence in the country that would look at gun laws, mental health issues and a so-called “culture of violence” that he says includes violent video games, for example.

But “it’s going to be a battle” to advance legislation such as reinstating a ban on so-called assault weapons, Mr. Lieberman said.

“We have to convince [gun owners] that none of these proposals will take their guns away,” he said.