April 3, 2013

In Focus: NRA: Arm school staffers, save lives

Responding to the Newtown, Conn., massacre, it recommends firearms training for one or more employees per school who pass a background check.

By ALAN FRAM The Associated Press

click image to enlarge

Shoppers leave Hoffman’s Gun Center on Tuesday in Newington, Conn. Customers are packing gun stores in the state after the unveiling of new gun-control legislation.

The Associated Press


By ANNIE LINSKEY Bloomberg News

NEWINGTON, Conn. - Only a few parking spaces were free and customers lined up 50-deep Tuesday at Hoffman's Gun Center, on what may be one of the last days that stores are allowed to sell assault-style weapons and high- capacity ammunition magazines.

"Whenever the government tells me I can't do something, I want to do it," John O'Lenechuck, 32, said after he bought a part for a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle, which would be banned under a proposed bill that could be approved as soon as Wednesday. "I need to get it while it is still legal."

Legislative leaders in Connecticut Monday announced a bipartisan gun-control accord that would expand an existing assault-weapon ban to include more than a hundred additional firearms, require universal background checks for purchases and eliminate the sales of magazines that hold more than 10 bullets. Gun owners would need to undergo a background check to secure a certificate that would be required for buying ammunition.

The lawmakers hailed their proposal as the strongest and most comprehensive law in the U.S. and a fitting response to the Newtown school massacre in December, which left 20 children and six educators dead and sparked a national debate on gun control.

"This is a historic moment," Gov. Dan Malloy said Tuesday at a news briefing at the Capitol in Hartford. "This package of laws is a very strong statement."

Malloy, a 57-year-old Democrat, said he believed the package would pass by wide margins and pledged to sign it. Connecticut would join New York and Colorado in approving gun-control legislation in the wake of the Newtown tragedy. Maryland is also considering a measure this year.

The Connecticut bill doesn't include a key element that some families of the Newtown victims wanted: an outright ban on possession of magazines with more than 10 bullets. Malloy has called for a separate up-or-down vote on that proposal, though he said Tuesday it was unlikely.

The Newtown shooter, Adam Lanza, carried 10 30-round magazines into the school, court documents show. Each of the victims died from multiple wounds, according to Wayne Carver, the medical examiner. Lanza reloaded six times and fired 154 bullets from his Bushmaster AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle in less than five minutes, according to the documents. The proposed measure would ban Bushmaster sales.

Bob Montlick, the owner of Bob's Gun Exchange in Darien, said that it is taking 15 to 20 minutes just to get through to the state police for authorization before selling weapons. Normally, he said, the process takes about two minutes.

"People are buying guns they might not be able to buy anymore," Montlick said. He said he's far busier today than usual and is selling "anything that takes more than 10 rounds."

Robert Crook, executive director of the Coalition of Connecticut Sportsman, a trade group, said passage of the legislation will do little to discourage crime. About 4 million AR-15 rifles have been sold in the past decade.

"How many criminals are going to register their 30-round magazines?" he asked. "Guns in common use should not be attacked."

At Hoffman's, Bill Misenti, 69, of Middletown bought some high-capacity magazines.

"I'm going to be a felon because of the guns I own," he said. "I said to myself, 'I better buy them now.' "

A National Rifle Association-sponsored report on Tuesday proposed a program for schools to train selected staffers as armed security officers. The former Republican congressman who headed the study suggested at least one protector with firearms for every school, saying it would speed responses to attacks. The report's release served as the gun-rights group's answer to improving school safety after the gruesome December slayings of 20 first-graders and six adults at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school. And it showed the organization giving little ground in its fight with President Obama over curbing firearms.

Obama's chief proposals include broader background checks for gun buyers and bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines -- both of which the NRA opposes.

The study -- unveiled at a news conference watched over by several burly, NRA-provided guards -- made eight recommendations, including easing state laws that might bar a trained school staff member from carrying firearms and improving school coordination with law enforcement agencies. But drawing the most attention was its suggested 40- to 60-hour training for school employees who pass background checks to also provide armed protection while at work.

"The presence of an armed security personnel in a school adds a layer of security and diminishes the response time that is beneficial to the overall security," said Asa Hutchinson, a Republican former congressman from Arkansas who directed the study.

Asked whether every school would be better off with an armed security officer, Hutchinson replied, "Yes," but acknowledged the decision would be made locally.

Hutchinson said school security could be provided by trained staff members or school resource officers -- police officers assigned to schools that some districts already have.

Dan Domenech, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators, said while a trained law enforcement officer with a gun would be valuable, his group opposes arming "a teacher or an employee who simply has taken a course and now has the ability to carry a weapon."

The Brady Campaign, a leading gun-control group, accused the NRA of "missing the point" by ignoring the need for expanded background checks and other measures the Senate is considering. It said people want "a comprehensive solution that not only addresses tragic school shootings, but also helps prevent the thousands of senseless gun deaths each year."

Also denouncing the recommendations was Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, which represents 1.5 million teachers and other workers. She called it a "cruel hoax that will fail to keep our children and schools safe" while helping only gun manufacturers.

The NRA released its report as congressional momentum seems to have stalled for any sweeping steps to curb gun violence.

Top Senate Democrats have little hope for a proposed ban on assault weapons, and the prospects for barring large-capacity magazines also seem difficult. Key senators remain short of a bipartisan compromise on requiring gun transactions between private individuals to undergo federal background checks, which currently apply only to sales handled by licensed gun dealers. The Senate plans to begin debating gun legislation next week.

The 225-page study cost the NRA more than $1 million, Hutchinson said. The task force included several former top officials of federal law enforcement and security agencies.

The proposal won support from Mark Mattioli, whose 6-year-old son James was killed at Newtown.

"These are recommendations for solutions, real solutions that will make our kids safer," Mattioli said.


Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors

Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)