After the National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre suggested that an armed officer at every school is the way to stop massacres such as the shooting in Newtown,CT, that killed 20 first graders and 7 adults, the reaction of school districts across the country ranged from incredulity to serious consideration—particularly in Arizona—though financial constraints seemed to be a deterrent to most.
LaPierre held a Friday new conference, breaking the NRA’s silence—and making many wish that the infamous group representing four million gun owners had remained silent.
“Do it now to make sure that blanket of safety is in place when our kids return to school in January,” LaPierre said in a statement heard round the world.
While the rest of the world is still trying to understand America’s fascination with guns and the right to buy magazine clips that can hold 100 bullets at a time, the head of the NRA is suggesting that more guns is the answer.
Commentators were quick to point out that there was already an armed officer at Columbine High School in 1999 when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 15 people and wounded 23 more, but the officer missed when he shot at Harris, as did a nearby officer writing a speeding ticket who responded to the call. So though they were there with their weapons, they were unable to stop the infamous massacre.
Although many school officials and politicians called LaPierre’s idea preposterous, there were some who thought it should be taken seriously.
In Philadelphia, there seemed to be general outrage that the suggestion had even been made.
Philly Mayor Michael Nutter called the NRA’s message “an insult to the lives of those children” killed in Newtown. “That we would face the prospects of shoot-outs in our schools, and utilize the precious and declining resources in public education to put armed personnel in every school, is insane,” Nutter said, according to Philly.com.
Philadelphia City Councilwoman Jannie L. Blackwell, chair of the Education Committee, called the proposal “the most foolish thing I’ve heard all day.”
But in Arizona, a much more conservative political culture with more enthusiastic gun owners, officials seemed to embrace the idea.
On Friday, state House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, said he plans to introduce legislation in 2013 to fully fund and train school resource officers at every Arizona school.
“The NRA and I agree,” he told the Arizona Republic. “We need an armed, trained person at every school.”
He said his bill will seek to restore funding to its prior levels, or more, if that is what’s required to put an officer in every school.
“Whatever that dollar figure is, that’s going to be in my bill,” he said.
Kevin Quinn, president of the National Association of School Resource Officers and former president of the Arizona School Resource Officers Association, said armed officers at every school would be “a great thing.”
“The key would be making sure all those officers are properly trained to work in the schools, making them trained resource officers as opposed to standing outside the building,” he said.
But in a joint statement, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, which together represent nearly every teacher in the country, were adamantly against it.
“Guns have no place in our schools. Period,” the groups said. “We must do everything we can to reduce the possibility of any gunfire in schools, and concentrate on ways to keep all guns off school property and ensure the safety of children and school employees.”
Incidentally, according to Fox News the NRA has registered an average of 8,000 new members a day since the Newtown massacre, far more than after past attacks—perhaps a recognition by gun owners that there seems to be a desire among lawmakers in Washington to actually pass new laws this time.