NRA-funded task force wants more armed personnel in schools

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Four months after the Sandy Hook school shooting, a task force set up by the National Rifle Association issued a school safety report Tuesday that calls for more trained and armed personnel on school grounds, arguing the faster someone responds with a gun during an attack, the more lives can be saved.

That was one of eight recommendations made in the 225-page National School Shield Report, which aims to bolster school security in the wake of the school shooting in Connecticut that left 20 children and six educators dead. It stands by the NRA’s controversial assertion that schools need more armed personnel rather than a slew of new gun control measures.


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“The specific finding and recommendation is that the presence of armed security personnel in a school adds a layer of security and diminishes response time that is beneficial to the overall security,” said Asa Hutchinson, a former Republican congressman from Arkansas and head of the task force.

Speaking to reporters at the National Press Club, Mr. Hutchinson said the NRA set aside $1 million for the study. The task force was free to make its own recommendations, which were based on input from the “most experienced and respected security experts” and a “comprehensive security assessment” of a half-dozen schools across the nation, he said.

NRA officials said they would need “time to digest” the findings, but the task force study “will go a long way to making America’s schools safer.”

The report recommends that school resource officers and designated personnel complete 40 to 60 hours of training in an NRA-designed course on how to confront school shooters, and that states loosen gun laws that prohibit personnel from carrying firearms on school grounds.

It also recommends that the task force develop an online security assessment tool for schools; that states mandate that public schools develop a security plans as part of their overall assessments; and that the federal government designate the Department of Homeland Security as the lead agency responsible for coordinating federal programs and funding of local school safety efforts.

The report comes as Congress prepares to return to Washington from its two-week Easter recess with gun control legislation among its top agenda items.

Pro-gun control Democrats and outside groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union panned the recommendations in the report, arguing that arming school personnel is a “radical” idea and urging Congress to “reject any proposal that militarizes our schools.”

Rep. Mike Thompson, California Democrat and co-chairman of the House Gun Violence Task force, said that “arming and training school personnel for shootouts will only exacerbate the problem.”

Mr. Thompson also said the NRA task force’s findings overlook the need for stricter laws to stem gun trafficking and straw purchases, and that mandate universal background checks.

“Passing legislation that enhances school safety is not an acceptable alternative to passing other gun violence prevention measures such as background checks,” Mr. Thompson said. “Congress can and should do both.”

The politically powerful NRA has been under scrutiny in the wake of December’s Newtown, Conn., shooting, as President Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden led a renewed charge for more restrictive gun laws and states such as Maryland, Connecticut and Colorado moved to pass new gun laws. But after a brief period of silence, NRA officials have engaged in an energetic campaign against proposed new gun laws, from bans on certain classes of so-called assault weapons and ammunition clips to expanded background checks and other restrictions on gun sales.

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