The National Rifle Association broke its silence Friday about last week’s shooting rampage at a Connecticut elementary school that left 26 children and staff dead.
“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” the group’s top lobbyist, Wayne LaPierre, said at a Washington news conference.
LaPierre announced that former Rep. Asa Hutchison, R-Ark., will lead an NRA program that will develop a model security plan for schools that relies on armed volunteers.
Locally, an armed police officer splits time between Rome High School and Rome Middle School, but none are assigned to the elementary schools, according to Rome Police Chief Elaine Snow.
The costs are split between the police department and Rome City Schools. The police department provides the officer with a car and equipment.
“We do have officers patrolling in every sector daily,” Snow said.
The Floyd County Police Department has four school resource officers, according to Chief Bill Shiflett.
“They are all sworn, certified police officers and are armed,” Shiflett said. “They and other officers support all the feeder schools for the high school to which they are assigned.”
The Floyd County police program was created in 1998 under a community policing grant, Shiflett said.
“The grant originally paid 75 percent of the salary of four officers for three years, with the remainder being a local match,” he said. “The board of education paid 25 percent of the remaining local funds. After the grant expired we developed a Memorandum of Understanding with the board of education in which they reimburse us for the 75 percent of the annual salary cost of the four officers, and that is the current agreement.”
Shiflett said he agrees it would make school safer if an armed police officer was on every campus any time school was in session.
“Having someone trained to safely carry and retain their weapon on campus would defuse potential dangerous activity on campus and meet any armed attack with appropriate force and tactics,” Shiflett said. “This would reduce the potential for violence and reduce the potential for mass casualties in the event of an armed assault.”
But Shiflett and Snow agree there are fiscal challenges to having an armed officer on every campus.
“You can’t put a price on a person’s life,” Snow said. “But in the reality of things, who pays for it?”
The move could cost Floyd County about half a million dollars a year, according to Shiflett.
“For Floyd County, this would mean supplementing the current four school resource officers with at least 15 more police officers,” he said.
Shiflett said he and other staff members are in favor of arming school administrators and teachers if they are trained and pass similar standards as police.
“We realize this is way above our decision making authority, however, the idea should be talked about to see if it is the right direction and if school officials would want that to happen,” Shiflett said. “The shooting incident in Connecticut and Colorado only took minutes. Time is of the essence in a situation like this. First responding police officers may take several minutes or longer to arrive. Lives could be saved if there were trained school officials to react to a situation that are willing to accept the challenge and responsibility.”
LaPierre said “the next Adam Lanza,” the man responsible for last week’s mayhem, is planning an attack on another school.
“How many more copycats are waiting in the wings for their moment of fame from a national media machine that rewards them with wall-to-wall attention and a sense of identity that they crave, while provoking others to try to make their mark?” LaPierre said. “A dozen more killers, a hundred more? How can we possibly even guess how many, given our nation’s refusal to create an active national database of the mentally ill?”
He blamed video games, movies and music videos for exposing children to a violent culture day in and day out.
“In a race to the bottom, many conglomerates compete with one another to shock, violate and offend every standard of civilized society, by bringing an even more toxic mix of reckless behavior and criminal cruelty right into our homes,” LaPierre said.
He refused to take any questions after speaking. Though security was tight, two protesters were able to interrupt LaPierre’s speech, holding up signs that blamed the NRA for killing children. Both were escorted out, shouting that guns in schools are not the answer.
The 4.3 million-member NRA largely disappeared from public debate after the shootings in Newtown, Conn., choosing atypical silence as a strategy as the nation sought answers after the rampage. The NRA temporarily took down its Facebook page and kept quiet on Twitter.
Since the slayings, President Barack Obama has demanded “real action, right now” against U.S. gun violence and called on the NRA to join the effort. Moving quickly after several congressional gun-rights supporters said they would consider new legislation to control firearms, the president said this week he wants proposals to reduce gun violence that he can take to Congress by January.
Obama has already asked Congress to reinstate an assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 and pass legislation that would stop people from purchasing firearms from private sellers without a background check. Obama also has indicated he wants Congress to pursue the possibility of limiting high-capacity magazines.
Shiflett said, “it is a sad day in our country when we speak of having police officers at every school and arming teachers to protect our children.
“However, we must face the facts that there are evil, mean cowards that attack those that cannot defend themselves,” Shiflett said. “If the attackers know that they may be met with the same force they intend to inflict, then maybe they would reconsider their desire to harm someone. This is my opinion and I realize there will be many to oppose, but we cannot do nothing in hopes that evil will go away, because it will not.”