Published December 20, 2015
The National Rifle Association called Tuesday for state legislatures to allow more school personnel to carry weapons on school grounds once they've gone through extensive training, as part of a set of recommendations that capped a weeks-long review in the wake of the Newtown mass shooting.
The NRA initially took criticism from Democrats for focusing so closely on school security, and rejecting gun control measures, following the Connecticut shooting 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.
Former Arkansas Rep. Asa Hutchinson, who led the NRA's review, appeared to ease off slightly on the call for armed officers in every school -- he said it's "important" for every school to have at least one, but acknowledged these decisions are "locally made" based on unique budget circumstances.
Hutchinson, though, did call for the creation of a 40-60 hour training program for armed officers. To accompany that, his group proposed a "model" state law that would allow certain personnel who have undergone this training to carry weapons on school grounds.
"This is not talking about all teachers," he said. "Teachers should teach."
The 225-page report also called for states to require schools to conduct a safety assessment and for a pilot program to be created assessing mental health as a pre-indicator for violence.
Mark Mattioli, the father of one Newtown shooting victim, also spoke after Hutchinson's announcement to applaud the review effort.
The review comes as Congress and a number of state legislatures pursue gun control legislation. While a few have focused on school security -- South Dakota has already approved legislation allowing for teachers to be armed -- many have concentrated on enacting or expanding assault weapons bans, strengthening background checks and passing other measures to restrict access to firearms. Connecticut, the home of the Sandy Hook school shooting, is the latest to advance a sweeping gun control proposal -- lawmakers announced a deal Monday on a package that is likely to win approval.
But LaPierre in December argued that improving school security is paramount. He 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."