NRA call for armed guards in schools gets mixed review

Dec. 21, 2012 @ 06:02 PM

Adding armed security guards in public schools will keep American children safe, the National Rifle Association stated Friday.

The statement, delivered by NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, blamed the media, violent video games, movies and television for the rise in gun violence. Rejecting increased gun control, LaPierre said the mass shootings at Newtown, Conn. could have been stopped by a "good guy with a gun."

He proposed "a model National School Shield Emergency Response Program for every school that wants it." Qualifying NRA members with expertise in designing emergency plans, training teachers, access control and safer building design would be available to any school.

"I call on Congress today to act immediately, to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every school — and to do it now, to make sure that blanket of safety is in place when our children return to school in January," LaPierre said. 

The Department of Education has counted 98,817 public schools in the United States and an additional 33,366 private schools. There already are an estimated 10,000 school resource officers, most of them armed and employed by local police departments, in the nation's schools, according to Mo Canady, executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers.

The NRA's plan would rely heavily on law enforcement agencies to station officers at every school. Many schools around North Carolina and Union County have a School Resource Officer (SRO) assigned to each school cluster. SROs are armed and have all the powers of a sworn officer, Union County Public Schools Spokesman Rob Jackson said.

"Union County Public Schools is very grateful for the relationship we have with the Union County Sheriff's Office and the City of Monroe Police Department in providing School Resource Officers for our schools," read a UCPS statement. "If funding were available, the school system would welcome an opportunity to discuss the possibility of increasing this program with our law enforcement partners."

But those changes would require planning, thought and preparation, Jackson said. The new Union County Board of Education will hear an update on school security in January and then discuss whether improvements are needed. Whether any improvements come from inside the school system or the NRA, Jackson said school officials will entertain practical, effective measures.

"We're going to look for great ideas wherever we find great ideas," he said.

One option is to increase the number of SROs so there is one for all the 53 county schools.

Monroe Police Chief Debra Duncan said more SROs would keep every school secure.

"And if the NRA wants to put paid police officers in schools and help us fund them, I'd be willing to sit down with them and talk about that plan," Duncan said.

Union County Sheriff Eddie Cathey echoed her statement.

"We have SROs who are trained to work in the schools," Cathey said. "Adding more would an option, but like everything else, you run into a money problem."

The NRA's statement implied that a government that can find funding for non-essential services, the money can be found to secure schools.

"Right now, today, every school in the United States should plan meetings with parents, school administrators, teachers and local authorities — and draw upon every resource available — to erect a cordon of protection around our kids right now."

But the first steps for local officials will be a frank analysis of existing security and discussion of any shortfall.

"We'd need to talk about it and weigh the different options," Cathey said. "We can talk to the school board and see what they think and then begin working on a plan."