CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Education leaders in Kanawha and Putnam counties are questioning the feasibility and effectiveness of placing an armed guard in every school.
The National Rifle Association made the suggestion Friday in its first official statement since 26 people were killed in a shooting at a Connecticut elementary school. Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president for the NRA, spoke at length Friday, calling on Congress "to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every school."
Arguing that an armed officer in every school could prevent carnage, he said this should be done immediately.
"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," he said.
Pete Thaw, president of the Kanawha County board of education, isn't so sure.
He said it's questionable that anyone could have stopped Adam Lanza - who shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School with an assault rifle Dec. 15 - from murdering 20 students and six adults.
"Frankly, you know, we've got to accept one thing: There is no way that that guy or any guy so demented can be stopped," Thaw said "We can't build the walls high enough, the glass thick enough, (or have) enough policemen armed to stop him."
He said he understands why some people might think armed officers in every school could help. Considering the amount of federal aid has decreased for Kanawha County and the rest of the state in recent years though, Thaw thinks the idea wouldn't be feasible.
Chuck Hatfield, superintendent of Putnam County Schools, agreed. There are three resource officers that work in Putnam County's four high schools, and Hatfield said they are useful. They're in the schools through an arrangement with several different law enforcement agencies, but there's no way Putnam County could afford anymore, Hatfield said.
"To place a police officer in each of our schools, it would probably cost us a million and a half (dollars) a year to do that," Hatfield said Friday in phone interview. "Obviously we don't have that kind of money in our budget right now."
What if the federal government did have the money?
Still probably not a great idea, said Jim Phares, outgoing Randolph County superintendent and soon-to-be state superintendent. From the perspective of a county superintendent, he said it's a step closer to making schools more like prisons.
Hatfield and Thaw each used the same words to describe their feelings on the matter.
"I just don't think we can turn our schools into an armed camp with razor wire and bullet-proof glass and armed guards inside," Thaw said. "I just don't think it'll work."
Phares said the problem is more complicated that just having more or less guns in schools. He admits that he's asked himself recently, "how many guns do you need?" and he thinks gun control could be part of the solution. But he said there are also problems with mental health and violence in culture that make preventing such atrocities more challenging.
LaPierre trumpeted those other factors in his speech Friday. He blamed a media culture that promotes violence, video games and movies that glorify killing and a lack of a list of mentally ill people.
He also said the NRA is ready to develop a "model National School Shield Emergency Response Program" for every school in the nation. It'll include armed guards in every school, but also advice on designing safe buildings and emergency procedures, LaPierre said.
"If we truly cherish our kids. . .we must give them the greatest level of protection possible and the security that is only available with a properly trained, armed good guy," LaPierre said.