The NRA's New Plan for Even More Guns in Schools Doesn't Add Up

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The National Rifle Association, the ongoing lobbying interests of which primarily exist for the promotion of buying more guns under the auspices of "safety," has apparently concluded once and for all that the way to keep schools safe in the aftermath of mass shootings is to bring more guns on campus, with its $1 million task force suggesting Tuesday that the government change laws surrounding gun-free zones and make the NRA's estimated $6.6 billion pipe dream a reality.

Asa Hutchinson, the former NRA A-rated Congressman who is now running for governor in Arkansas while "employed as a consultant" of the NRA, took the podium Tuesday in Washington, D.C., to outline what he called "recommendations" to a gun lobby that paid "in excess of $1 million" for him and the "National School Shield" task force to create them. The NRA task force's proposals, part of a 225-page document that Hutchinson and the NRA have yet to release publicly, center on an eight-point recommendation on school safety — two of which have to do with bringing guns on campus, and three of which revolve around getting permission and funding from state and local officials to make this happen. (Update, 12:55 p.m.: The report was later obtained by the news media.)

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Hutchinson and his team had been studying and surveying schools since December, when the NRA's Wayne LaPierre introduced Hutchinson as leading the lobby's school safety efforts in a press conference much wilder than Tuesday's seemingly calm affair. Speaking of so-called School Resource Officers — a new name for LaPierre's notorious "good guy with a gun" — Hutchinson said Tuesday that "an SRO in every school building is important. Right now you have an SRO in every third building. I would say that is insufficient. Generally there should be at least one in every school campus to reduce the response time." He said that in the report, "there is no specific recommendations on how many SROs or armed personnel" there should be at each school.

But Hutchinson's key points about school safety wrapped themselves around one expensive, perhaps very controversial tenet: a model-training program of those School Resource Officers, or armed guards who aren't school administrators. Hutchinson called this "an enhancement of what they currently undertake. It's 40 to 60 hours of comprehensive training," adding that the program would be open to "program for selected and designated armed school personnel" and administrators that want the training. He said "teachers should teach," while very leaving open the possibility that classroom teachers could get the very expensive training.

Indeed, putting more SROs in schools and training them wont' come cheap. Back in February, Mo Canady, executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers, said that while the salaries vary, officers usually cost a school $50,000 to $80,000 a year — he did not specify whether the cost of guns was included. Canady told USA Today at the time that the "NRA has not determined how every school could afford resource officers." From his vague responses to specific questions from reporters, Hutchinson made clear that the report did not include specific proposals for costs — indeed, he pinned that part on the federal government. The sixth recommendation Hutchinson outlined was a fuzzy initiative: "improved federal coordination and more directed funding, innovation, training and better coordination." He added, in a response to a question about funding, that the Obama administration could give "additional grants to the schools from Homeland Security."

That's blurry. So is any math on the proposals, but here is some: According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there are 98,817 public schools (total number of public, secondary, and combined schools) and 33,366 private schools. That's 132,183 schools nationwide, as of data available for the 2009-2010 school year. Even though some schools already employ armed guards, you can multiply that school total by the bare minimum it would cost to put one SRO in each school ($50,000), and there you have it: The NRA's dream of putting an armed guard in every school around the country could cost, at a minimum, around  $6,609,150,000 per year — and that may not even be counting the purchase of guns for them, which is why the NRA exists in the first place. The National School Shield's "model training program" recommendation would cost $800-$1,000 for every officer ,according to one of Hutchinson's team members chiming in at the press conference — and that would mean another $132,183,000, at $1,000 per officer. 

That's at least a $6.6 billion recommendation laid on the federal government. Hutchinson said the decision to arm school officials or guards would be "up to the school districts," but he did not elaborate any other plans for funding. (In his most recent interview with a local Arkansas station, Hutchinson blamed Mayor Michael Bloomberg's new ad campaign: "I wish he'd take that $10 million and put it in school safety.") Hutchinson in Washington on Tuesday also mentioned one cost-effective proposal, which he said was also up to the NRA to "approve" — it had to do with a do-it-yourself online assessment/questionnaire provided by the NRA, and would be "free of charge." So that's one part of putting guns in schools that doesn't cost more money — all while making the NRA's favorite industry a lot richer.

Here's the eight-point initiative Hutchinson introduced, based on our notes — an hour after the press event concluded, the NRA had still yet to release the report of its task force online.

1. Model training programs— It would give SROs "an enhancement of what they currently undertake. It's 40-60 hours of comprehensive training."

2. Adopt changing the laws the firearm be allowed to be carried into schools for that training and for those officers. 

3. Inter-agency agreement between police and school.

4. An "online self-assessment tool that schools can utilize" to determine if their safety standards match up to the NRA's.  Do it yourself "this online assessment tool, free of charge." 

5. "State education adequacy policies"—essentially including training for students.

6. Improved federal coordination.

7. That the NRA turn its "National School Shield" into an umbrella organization for school safety.

8. A pilot program on mental health—Hutchinson mentioned that this would help to ameliorate the effects of bullying.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.