A National Rifle Association-funded school safety task force today unveiled its proposals to avoid school shootings like Newtown, coloring within the lines of the outline floated late last year by the NRA's Wayne LaPierre at a press conference where he attempt to cast blame for that tragedy on the "national media machine" and lawmakers behind gun-free school zones, among a host of other things.
The biggest change from LaPierre's plan to the one offered today by former Rep. Asa Hutchinson: Instead of placing armed volunteers in every school that wants one, the report suggests each school train and arm at least one staff member. That move would, in theory, cut down on the cost of the initiative, although it does little to address the larger doubts about how effective such a shield program would be.
"In terms of volunteers, my impression of school superintendents is they would have great reluctance and so it's not the best solution," Hutchinson said. "That's why we have shifted to school staff, trained school staff, that's designated by the superintendent of the school board." He said that each armed staff member would need 40 to 60 hours of training that would cost $800 to $1,000 each.
Here's NBC News with a little more on what's in the 225-page report:
The report outlines a model training program for school resource officers and school personnel that, along with proposed changes to various state laws, would enable designated school personnel to carry firearms after having undergone training. Other proposals include development of better security plans, and greater coordination between schools and state and local governments to fund security programs and develop safety programs.
Today's press conference comes as the Senate slowly (but not necessarily surely) inches toward a deal on gun control/safey that now centers almost exclusively around expanding background checks for gun buyers, and not more sweeping proposals like a ban on assault weapons. Expanding background checks is widely supported by both the general public and gun owners—but not the NRA, which has remained vocal in its opposition to even the more scaled-down legislation.
When asked why the task force didn't weigh in on the larger gun control debate, Hutchinson—who received an A-rating from the gun lobby in 2010—made no effort to hide the fact that the shield program is an attempt to shrink the larger conversation to focus exclusively on school shootings specifically, and not gun violence in society at large. "We want the debate focused on school safety," Hutchinson said. "I have not focused on the separate debate in Congress on firearms and how they should be dealt with."
On a somewhat related topic: More than 3,200 people have been killed by guns since Dec. 14, when Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 first-graders and six school staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary.
As an added wrinkle to the task force's report, Hutchinson repeatedly went out of his way to stress that his team worked independently of the NRA, and without the group's influence. USA Today notes, however, that the event was organized by the NRA's press office, paid for by the gun lobby, and the website hosting the project includes NRA in its URL (www.nraschoolshield.com). The Associated Press, meanwhile, pointed out that the NRA provided its own security guards for the event. Nevertheless, the gun lobby released a statement following the event saying that it "needed time to digest the report" before weighing in.
Here's the full report: