he National Rifle Association (NRA) president says when it comes to figuring out ways that school districts can fund safety improvements, such as armed guards, they may have to get creative.
“There’s all kinds of creative things that can be done,” NRA President David A. Keene told a local reporter while visiting central Missouri Saturday.
Keene was the keynote speaker for the Camden County Republicans’ Lincoln Days dinner Saturday night at the Lodge of the Four Seasons in Lake Ozark. Before the dinner, he spoke one-on-one with a few media outlets.
Last week, a task force funded by the NRA released a 225-page report with recommendations for improving school safety.
The task force was formed because the federal government was asking the wrong question after the Newtown, Conn., shooting, Keene said.
The government asked, “What can we do about guns?” but the question people should be asking, according to Keene, is “What can we do about our children’s safety?”
Keene said the report does, in fact, address funding the recommendations, but noted, “It is not our contention or the contention of the task force that a one-size-fits-all federal force is what’s needed or even that federal funding is needed.”
Keene said while most public schools in big cities already have armed guards funded by state or local governments, “the real vulnerable schools are in outer suburbs and this is where a lot of the shootings are taking place.”
Some schools that have armed protectors on their campuses use volunteers while others arm their teachers and administrators. Other districts use school resource officers or have private security.
In one district, Keene said that at any one time, one person in a group of staff and administrators is armed but that person is never identified. In another school system, Keene said police officers do their paperwork while at a school, so a police presence can be felt there.
“If you decide you need security, it’s amazing how creative people get,” Keene said.
Armed Staff in Schools
One of the suggestions out of the task force’s report that has received much media attention is “that armed security in the schools can be an important and perhaps essential component in the protection of the children,” Keene said.
Of the approximate 130,000 schools in the nation, about 30,000 have armed security, Keene said.
He noted that one of the NRA’s concerns and conclusions reached by the task force is that “it’s not enough to just issue a firearm to a guy and call him a guard. You need extensive training, more training than you would get, for example, to get a concealed carry permit.”
Page 2 of 3 - The report also mentions what types of locks and alarms are recommended to improve a school’s infrastructure, Keene said. Additionally, there is a section where schools can use an online tool to assess their vulnerability.
Also included is a section on mental health problems and “how people should react to threats,” Keene said, noting that in most city school shootings, “at least half a dozen people knew it was going to happen or knew it had been threatened and no one did anything. Those people who were alerted didn’t take any action.”
Keene also was asked about a bill prefiled by state Sen. Dan Brown (R-Rolla) one day before the Newtown shooting. The bill, among other things, would require each school district and charter school to annually teach the Eddie Eagle Gunsafe Program to first-graders or use a similar program with the same qualifications.
The Eddie Eagle program curriculum is created and published by NRA, but the NRA is never mentioned in the curriculum.
“It’s been very helpful,” Keene said of the Eddie Eagle program. “It’s a very useful program. A lot of our resources go into teaching gun safety and gun handling. The more of that we have, the better off we are.”
As the federal government began talks of placing more restrictions on firearms, some sheriffs and other law enforcement officials around Missouri and other states said they would not enforce any gun control measures that come down from the federal government.
Keene said while the NRA hasn’t taken any position on the sheriffs’ statements, he said, “Their argument is that a sheriff, like anyone else, takes an oath to defend and uphold the constitution. If there’s something that he (sheriff) sees is clearly unconstitutional, then he doesn’t have an obligation to do that.”
Keene said law enforcement officials also feel that any federal mandates regarding gun control also means that the local police or sheriff’s departments will have to pay to enforce such laws.
Unlike Missouri, some states across the country have already started passing gun control measures, and Keene said, “We’re fighting these proposals in a whole series of states in which they’ve been passed,” including challenging New York’s laws in court “because much of what he (the New York governor) proposed there is just blatantly unconstitutional.
“We intend, in all of these states, to fight anything like that that comes down the road,” Keene said. “When we lose a battle, we don’t consider that the end of the game.”
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