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(RNN) – Arming and training more on-campus guards and placing at least one officer with a firearm on every campus were some of the recommendations from a task force commissioned by the National Riffle Association on Tuesday.
The eight recommendations are part of National School Shield, a program aimed at reducing the number of violent gun crimes committed on campuses.
Asa Hutchinson, a former congressman from Arkansas and administrator for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, talked about the 225-page report.
Hutchinson said the task force's focus was on "smaller schools and middle-tier schools; those that have resource challenges."
"The process that we went through is that over the past three months, these experts have engaged in assessments of multiple schools of a variety of sizes and compositions," Hutchinson said. "They composed the best practices and vulnerabilities and conducted interviews with people knowledgeable in the field [of school security]."
Hutchinson emphasized that the task force worked independently of the NRA and the organization would need to issue its own response to the recommendations at a later time.
The program has eight points:
Model training programs: School resource officers and school personnel (including administrators and teachers) would complete a 40- to 60-hour program to learn how to deal with active shooter situations. Hutchinson pointed to the 1997 Pearl (MS) High School shooting when an assistant principal who had a gun in his car returned to campus and disarmed the shooter.
Revisions to state laws: States should consider changing laws to allow school personnel to carry firearms while completing training programs.
Interagency agreements: Law enforcement agencies and schools must communicate better in order to make resources and education readily available.
Online self-assessment tools: School administrators would be allowed access to a secure website run by the NRA that would answer questions about campus security policies. Administrators could then link to a page listing best practices to help them improve.
Recommendations for state adequacy policies: School security would become part of adequacy assessments that school systems already use to determine quality of education.
Increased direct federal funding: Federal policy makers should make resources more available, and there should be a lead agency that evaluates and helps schools.
NRA involvement: National School Shield would become an umbrella to direct school safety across the nation, create pilot programs, consult member schools and commit to long-term involvement.
Pilot programs for mental health: Programs would be created to reduce incidences of bullying and antisocial behavior and identify threats.
The report also has a 100-page index the task force compiled from best practices at schools around the nation.
The American Federation of Teachers responded to the recommendations by calling the proposal a "cruel hoax," saying it will fail to make schools and children safe.
"If we are serious about protecting our children and our communities, Congress must reject the NRA's dangerous posturing and follow the lead of the Connecticut Legislature in enacting bipartisan, commonsense gun safety legislation, including comprehensive background checks, and a ban on large magazine clips and military assault weapons," AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a statement. "These reforms would strike at the heart of America's gun violence epidemic."
Hutchinson's announcement came one day before both houses in the Connecticut General Assembly are scheduled to vote on a restrictive new gun control bill that would, among other things, ban high-capacity magazines.
The legislation would add more than 100 types of guns to the state's list of banned assault weapons and make it illegal to buy or sell any gun magazine that holds more than 10 rounds.
The bill also requires universal background checks for all weapon sales and a class on how to use new guns.
Connecticut gun owners who currently have magazines that hold more than 10 rounds can keep them, but they would need to register them with the state by the end of the year.
"These will be some of the strongest laws on high capacity magazines in the United States of America," Sen. Don Williams said. "We are prepared now as the Connecticut State Legislature to move forward and provide this state with what it deserves, its people deserve and most importantly, what our children deserve."
The gun control issue has been especially tempestuous in the state after the December murders of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT.
However, one of the victim's parents sided with the NRA in its belief that more armed school security officers who are better trained would reduce, and in some cases, prevent deadly violence on school campuses.
"I think it's important that everybody out there recognize that as parents we send our kids off to school, and there are certain expectations," Mark Mattioli said. "And obviously in Sandy Hook, those expectations weren't met. Politics need to be set aside. I hope people don't resort to name calling. These are recommendations for solutions."
Mattioli referenced a 2002 federal report that made recommendations for increased school safety and speculated how seriously school administrators and law enforcement agencies took those recommendations.
"My question is what was done in that report to make Newtown safer, to make your town safer?" he asked. "Mental health is a huge component of that. We need to focus attention and research to that. Kids need to be safe."
The NRA first announced the National School Shield Program in December as its response to the Newtown school shooting.
Following Newtown and several other shootings, national focus shifted to the Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994. That was only a small part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act.
The federal law included a prohibition on the manufacture for civilian use of semi-automatic firearms or ‘assault weapons.' The 10-year ban was pass by Congress in September 1994.
The law also set a limit on high-capacity magazines — these could now carry no more than 10 bullets.
There were many loopholes in the law, including its application only to weapons manufactured after the date of the ban's enactment. Also, only 18 firearm models were explicitly banned.
Hutchinson said his group's recommendations were not etched in stone, especially since no major federal gun legislation has been passed.
"Yes, (an armed officer) is a plus, but we also recognize that one, the decision is locally made," Hutchinson said. "Secondly, there are some school districts that will decide not to go that direction, and we want to make sure that our resources and our best practices are available to them."
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