The idea of arming teachers and school personnel proposed in a report commissioned by the National Rifle Association (NRA) was widely panned by national police groups, who contend the concept is an unfeasible way to stem school shootings.
The 225-page report released Tuesday by the National School Shield Task Force, a body commissioned by the NRA to write the report, recommended having either armed school personnel or school resource officers in an effort to prevent a school shooting like the one that rocked Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
While the national police groups who spoke to the International Business Times were strong advocates of having armed school resource officers, they said putting guns in the hands of teachers or school officials could be dangerous.
“Giving a gun to somebody and saying, ‘You’re going to be protecting this kid,’ I don’t know if it’s a good idea,” Chris Skinner, president of the Southern States Police Benevolent Association, told IBTimes. Skinner prefaced his remarks by saying he had not read the report.
Skinner said he is a believer in deploying school resource officers, but “I’m a little hesitant to go further than that,” referring to arming teachers or other school employees.
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Jim Bueermann, president of the Police Foundation, said teachers having guns can lead to accidents, pointing out that even trained officers can have a gun accidentally discharge on them.
More guns in schools also carry higher risks of an accident, he said.
“I would not be excited at all about increasing the availability of firearms on a school campus. When you increase the availability of firearms, things happen with those guns,” Bueermann told the IBTimes. “I cannot envision an environment where I can send my kids to school where teachers are armed. No matter how much training you give them, accidents happen around guns.”
Joseph Occhipinti, executive director of the National Police Defense Foundation, said if schools decided to hire armed guards, he would prefer they hire someone with law enforcement experience.
“The feeling is if they’re going to go for school safety using armed guards, I’d hope the selection would be from retired law enforcement officials who have the experience, the expertise, in protecting the public,” he told IBTimes. “My recommendation would be to hire retired law enforcement.”
Occhipinti said the presence of a uniformed officer alone is a strong deterrent of school violence.
“Some people, if they see a uniformed officer in a 7-Eleven, they’re not going to rob it,” he said.
In no surprise, the NRA backed the task force’s eight recommendations, which also included an online security assessment for schools.
“The National Rifle Association is determined to continue to use every asset at its disposal to help make America's children safe at school. We need time to digest the full report,” the gun lobbying group said in a statement Tuesday. “We commend [National School Shield Task Force head] Asa Hutchinson for his rapid response in the aftermath of the Newtown tragedy, and we are certain the contributions he and his team have made will go a long way to making America's schools safer.”