NRA Pitches Itself as National Trainer for School Guards

The National Rifle Association today released a plan calling for more armed personnel in schools and pitching itself as a school safety trainer.

The Fairfax, Virginia-based group, which claims 5 million members and lobbies for gun rights, is spending $1 million on what it calls the National School Shield, said former Arkansas Representative Asa Hutchinson, a Republican paid consultant to the NRA and director of its schools project.

In the days after a gunman killed 20 schoolchildren and six educators at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, NRA officials said schools should increase security measures, including arming teachers and hiring more school officers, while opposing federal legislation such as expanded background checks for gun-buyers and limits on certain weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines.

At today’s press conference in Washington, Hutchinson reiterated that sentiment.

He called a package of Connecticut gun-control legislation on track to pass this week “totally inadequate,” saying its ban on semiautomatic rifles and expanded background checks do nothing to improve school safety.

Mark Mattioli, father of a 6-year-old boy killed at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, attended the NRA’s press conference and thanked the the group for its efforts. Other Newtown families have attended events held by President Barack Obama and others who have called on Congress to pass stricter gun controls. The president tomorrow will travel to Colorado to highlight the issue.

NRA Training

Among the eight recommendations in a 225-page report Hutchinson delivered to the NRA: The group should serve as the nation’s premier advocate and trainer for school safety while the federal government should focus on doling out money to school districts that need it to improve safety.

“The NRA has the nationally recognized expertise to develop and implement the stringent training courses” recommended by Hutchinson’s team, the report says. Grants to help pay for new school officers and security measures such as heavier doors and metal detectors could be administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the report suggests. It doesn’t recommend a specific dollar amount.

The NRA released a statement after the press conference saying its officials “need time to digest the full report” yet is confident that Hutchinson and his team’s recommendations “will go a long way to making America’s schools safer.”

Laura W. Murphy, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington legislative office, said in a statement today that the NRA proposals are “radical.” She asked Congress to “reject any proposal that militarizes our schools.”

Lost Momentum

The NRA report comes at a time when federal gun legislation has lost momentum.

The Senate stripped provisions out of its omnibus gun bill that would have banned the sale of “assault weapons” and limited the size of magazines. The bill includes expanded background checks, a measure to curb gun trafficking and one to increase grants for school safety upgrades.

The school safety legislation would authorize grants for states and local governments to improve infrastructure, including new classroom locks, fences and doors. The bill authorizes $40 million that would be administered by the U.S. Department of Justice. Local governments would have to provide a 50 percent match to obtain the funds.

The school safety bill is sponsored by Senators Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, and Susan Collins, a Maine Republican. It probably stands the best chance of passage of any of the measures under consideration.

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