WASHINGTON - The Senate gun control debate on the near horizon, 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 Barack 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 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," Asa Hutchinson, a GOP former congressman from Arkansas who directed the study, told a news conference.
Asked whether every school would be better off with an armed security officer, Hutchinson replied, "Yes," but acknowledged the decision would be made locally.
"Obviously, we believe that they make a difference," he said.
Several NRA-supplied security guards were at Tuesday's event - unusual for an announcement at the National Press Club, a building that houses offices for many news organizations.
Hutchinson said school security could be provided by trained staff members or by school resource officers - police officers assigned to schools that some districts already have.