POLITICS: White House

National Rifle Association calls on nation's schools to arm teachers, staff

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Politics,White House,Brian Hughes,Politics Digest,Gun Control

The National Rifle Association on Tuesday called on every school in the country to arm their teachers and staff, the latest salvo by the powerful gun lobby to fend off new firearms restrictions already headed for the Senate floor.

In the wake of the December massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., the NRA argued that more guns, not fewer, were the answer to curtailing a recent spate of high-profile mass shootings. A 225-page study released by the NRA on Tuesday doesn't even mention universal background checks, an assault weapons ban or a prohibition on high-capacity ammo magazines, the key measures being pursued by President Obama and congressional Democrats.

Under the NRA proposal, school staffers would receive 40 to 60 hours of gun training at a cost of up to $1,000 each, the study showed. The report also called for a uniform law in each state that allows officials to arm school employees and creates an online tool to measure school safety.

More broadly, however, the report sends a clear signal to lawmakers ahead of contentious gun debates that begin after the Easter recess: The NRA won't consider any new firearms restrictions, including expanded background checks, which the organization once backed.

Indeed, the study's authors said they didn't even consider Obama's proposals, but instead focused solely on school safety.

"If you have the firearm on the presence of someone in the school that can reduce the response time, it will save lives," said former Rep. Asa Hutchinson, an Arkansas Republican tasked by the NRA to complete the report. "That is the objective."

Critics dismissed the NRA blueprint as inadequate, saying the plan would actually increase the likelihood of school shootings like the December massacre at Sandy Hook.

"Arming school personnel and training them for shootouts will only exacerbate problems," said Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif.

And Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, called the NRA-backed ideas a "cruel hoax."

But the White House is clearly worried that momentum for new gun restrictions is fading. Obama will travel to Colorado on Wednesday and Connecticut on Monday -- states where the highest-profile shootings of 2012 took place -- to renew his call for increased gun control.

Underscoring Obama's challenge, White House press secretary Jay Carney wouldn't even predict if any of the president's gun recommendations would become law.

Joining Hutchinson onstage to present Hutchinson's plan was Mark Mattioli, whose son, James, was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary.

"As parents, we send our kids off to school, and there are certain expectations, and obviously, in Sandy Hook, those expectations weren't met," Mattioli said, adding the NRA-endorsed plan amounted to "real solutions that will make our kids safer."

Just last week, surrounded by other family members of Newtown victims, Obama argued the opposite, trying to shame lawmakers into acting on gun restrictions just 100 days after the latest shooting.

With Capitol Hill deeply divided over the issue of guns, Democrats will focus on passing background checks and legislation combatting weapons trafficking. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has already stripped the assault weapons ban and language on high-capacity magazines from the gun legislation, virtually ensuring such measures won't pass.

bhughes@washingtonexaminer.com

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