The National Rifle Association's National School Shield project released a series of recommendations Tuesday it says will help keep schools safer, including a training program for teachers and other school staff who want to carry a firearm.
The "model training program" would include a background check for school staffers who want to carry a firearm as well as 40-60 hours in training, former representative Asa Hutchinson, director of the project, said during a press conference at the National Press Club.
The report acknowledged many schools were unable to afford adding school resource officers (SROs) to their staff, which they cite as an "important layer of security for prevention and response in case of an active threat on a school campus."
While the NRA initially advocated for former police officers to volunteer to guard schools, Hutchinson said the NRA's research caused the group to back off that approach. "In terms of volunteers, my impression of school superintendents is they would have great reluctance and so it's not the best solution," Hutchinson said. "That's why we have shifted to school staff, trained school staff, that's designated by the superintendent of the school board."
The 225-page report went beyond training and arming teachers in its recommendations. Other suggestions included proper training programs for SROs; an online threat assessment tool for schools crafted by the school shield experts to evaluate risks; and further funding and coordination on issues of school safety between the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Education.
"They need to have a lead agency and they need to have greater coordination," Hutchinson said. "The federal role is greater support for innovation, for technology and training grants." The project recommended states and school districts absorb the costs for the other security improvements, Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson said the NRA provided "an excess of $1 million" to fund the research effort that produced a lengthy report. The announcement comes more than 100 days after 20 schoolchildren and six educators were shot and killed inside Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Mark Mattioli, whose son, James, was killed at Sandy Hook, appeared at the press conference briefly to applaud Hutchinson's recommendations.
"This is a comprehensive program," he said. "I think politics needs to be set aside here and I hope this doesn't lead to name calling. ... This is recommendations for solutions, real solutions that will make out kids safer, that's what we need."
Hutchinson and his team of federal law enforcement trainers, former Secret Service agents and other safety officials fanned out across the country over the past three months to visit schools in urban, suburban and rural communities in order to craft solutions for many different threat situations.
While Hutchinson repeatedly insisted the project was conducted independently of the NRA and without the group's influence - the press conference was organized by the NRA's press office, paid for by the group and the website for the project was www.nraschoolshield.com. Nevertheless, the NRA released a statement following the press conference saying the group "needed time to digest the report" and commending Hutchinson's effort.
Jackie Kucinich, USAToday