The National Rifle Association’s National School Shield (NSS) Task Force unveiled its final report earlier this week, providing the organization’s latest response to last December's Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Former Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark.), who headed the NRA task force, presented the 225-page report at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on April 2, as senators nearby on Capitol Hill were debating gun control legislation that includes school safety issues. The eight recommendations at the conclusion of the National School Shield report are a mixed bag that will please, confuse, and anger elements of both the pro-gun and anti-gun sectors of America, as well as folks who fall somewhere in between.
The main feature of the NRA program, and the most talked-about, is its proposal “for the professional training of armed personnel in the school environment.” In addition to increasing the number of Security Resource Officers (SROs) — who are sworn law-enforcement officers — already present in many schools, the task force proposes that schools allow qualified school personnel to be armed. To facilitate this proposal, the NRA offers the expertise of its own instructors and training programs to “those who are designated by school officials and qualified by appropriate background investigation, testing and relevant experience.” The training would entail 40-80 hours of instruction and practice for the selected personnel.
Liberal-left media critics and gun control activist groups immediately pounced on the proposal as dangerous, claiming it would merely put more guns in schools, while the solution, as they see it, is to greatly reduce (or eliminate) the number of guns in private hands. On the other side, pro-gun organizations criticized the NRA’s plan as too costly, as well as being insufficient to protect students and school personnel. Gun Owners of America and the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms instead prefer that schools allow teachers and school personnel who have state concealed carry permits to be armed on school premises.
"The armed guard approach would be prohibitively expensive," said Eric Pratt, director of communications at Gun Owners of America GOA in an interview with Politix.com’s Mary Noble. "At any one time there are 135,000 police on duty in the country, and there are about that many schools. That shows you how huge of a deal it would be."
Estimates by various critics across the political spectrum have put the cost of the additional SROs in all the nation’s schools at $6.6 billion or more. "Teachers and principals who are authorized by their state to concealed carry should be authorized to concealed carry in school,” says GOA’s Eric Pratt. “As far as the [SRO] armed guard approach, it's not possible to have enough of them to cover any school."
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