"Politics need to be set aside here," said Mark Mattioli, whose son James was killed in the Sandy Hook massacre. "These are recommendations for solutions that will make our kids safer."
Mattioli wasn't speaking about stricter gun controls. Instead, he was at a Washington, D.C., press conference promoting the National Rifle Association's new National School Shield Program, which encourages schools to arm staff members to prevent shootings like the one in Newtown, Conn., that resulted in the deaths of 20 children and six adults.
The plan was authored by a panel led by former Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark.), who claimed he was commissioned by the NRA to "independently" compile a report on how to reduce gun violence at schools. However, the idea that he was not influenced by the NRA was questioned by reporters at the press conference and journalists on Twitter, such as The Atlantic Wire's Matt Sullivan:
Hutchinson claims the #NRA gave him "full independence" in his recommendations, "fulfilled its side of the bargain." Sigh.
— Matt Sullivan (@sullduggery) April 2, 2013
Hutchinson's recommendations include safety measures like enforcing sign-in policies and locking classroom doors. But the central plank of the plan is a 40-to-60-hour model training program for "designated armed school personnel," i.e. any teacher, principal, or other school staff recruited to carry a firearm.
Hutchinson did acknowledge that some state laws would have to be changed to allow every school to follow the NRA's recommendations. The NRA says the program would cost school districts between $800 and $1,000 per trainee. Overall, Hutchinson said that the NRA spent $1 million developing the National School Shield Program.
An earlier plan to allow outside volunteers to patrol campuses was nixed after school officials voiced their opposition to it, Hutchinson said. He also denied that the National School Shield Program was an attempt to influence the broader debate over gun control in Washington, repeatedly saying that they the NRA was focused solely on improving school safety.
Read the full 225-page report here: