The National Rifle Association-backed National School Shield Task Force released a report today calling on schools and state policymakers to support armed personnel in schools to help prevent shootings like the recent attack at Sandy Hook Elementary.
The task force’s recommendations include training programs for armed school personnel, which the group says would give officials the ability to defend themselves and students without having to wait for law enforcement to arrive. It also proposed changes to state laws to allow school officials to carry weapons, with proper training.
"The past two decades have witnessed a drop in incidences of school violence, including homicide rates and violent crimes," says the report. "This positive trend mirrors the expansion of SRO [armed school personnel] programs around the country. As more SRO officers have been assigned to schools, school death rates have decreased. These numbers support the notion that the presence of armed officers positively impacts the school environment."
The task force unveiled its proposals today at a tightly secured press conference at the National Press Club.
Former Drug Enforcement Agency administrator Asa Hutchinson, who is leading the task force, noted that during the 1997 shooting at Pearl High School in Missouri, an assistant principal was able to retrieve a gun from his car and detain the 16-year-old gunman, Luke Woodham. He said allowing school personnel to carry guns inside schools could reduce the response time to attacks.
Mark Mattioli, the father of 6-year-old Sandy Hook victim James Mattioli, also spoke in support of the report, calling it a "comprehensive program."
"Politics need to be set aside here," said Mattioli. "These are recommendations for solutions, real solutions, that will make our kids safer."
The proposals were based on the task force’s study of six schools and interviews with school officials, law enforcement, and parents across the country.
Recommendations also included a free online assessment program for schools to analyze their current security measures and access information on best practices, efforts to improve cooperation between law enforcement officials and schools, and anti-bullying measures to help identify students who are at risk of becoming violent.
"If you look at what took place in Sandy Hook, mental health was a huge component of that," said Mattioli.
Around a dozen private security guards, some of them armed, monitored the press conference, and attendees had their bags inspected before entering. NRA officials have previously received death threats, but security and School Shield Task Force personnel said they were not aware of any specific threats that warranted the tight security today. A spokesperson for the NRA did not respond to request for comment.