The Obama administration plans to spend millions of dollars to place armed police officers in schools throughout the country in a move advocated by the National Rifle Association in the wake of last December's shooting massacre in Newtown, Conn.
The Department of Justice announced Friday it's giving nearly $45 million to fund 356 new school resource officer positions. Funding will be provided by grants from the department's Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS, office.
"Just over nine months after the senseless mass shooting at Sandy Hook, we remain committed to providing every resource we can to ensure that the children of Newtown can feel safe and secure at school and elsewhere," Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement. "And as we hold lost loved ones in our thoughts and prayers, we resolve to continue to support and protect this community — and to help them heal together."
Holder announced the department has allocated $150,000 to put police officers in schools in Newtown. The grant from the department's Bureau of Justice Assistance is intended to fund two positions, such as resource officers.
The NRA was initially criticized by Democrats for focusing so closely on school security, and rejecting gun control measures, following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.in which 26 people were killed. NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre in December called for armed officers to be installed in every school in the country.
In the NRA's first in-depth public comments since the shooting, LaPierre argued that if banks and members of Congress can have protection, schools across America should be afforded the same security.
"It's now time for us to assume responsibly for our schools," he said. "The only way to stop a monster from killing our kids is to be permanently involved and invested in a plan of absolute protection."
He added: "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."
In August, the Department of Justice authorized spending another $2.5 million in Newtown to help compensate police for overtime, forensic work and security since the shooting. The gunman, who had killed his mother at home before going to the school, killed himself as police closed in.
Police have been present since January at the school Sandy Hook students are using. The town's high school and one of its middle schools also have resource officers.
The district's acting school superintendent, John Reed, declined to comment Friday on the Department of Justice announcement through an assistant, who said the schools had not been notified about the funds.
Newtown established a school security committee last year and has been working with New York's John Jay College of Criminal Justice on a security analysis of all its schools.
Reed sent a letter to parents last month informing them of several security improvements, including the installation of security cameras in all schools.
The committee has said its goal is to have the full-time presence of one police officer and at least one trained security officer at each school building during regular school hours and it expects that to occur shortly after winter break.
Also on Friday, the State Bond Commission approved a $3.7 million grant for Newtown to finance the planning, design and site preparation costs for a new Sandy Hook Elementary School.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.