The National Rifle Association called for a stronger armed presence at schools across the country in response to the devastating violence that hit Newtown, CT, just one week ago.
"The only way to stop a monster from killing our kids is to be personally involved and invested in a plan of absolute protection," said Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the NRA, on Friday. "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Would you rather have your 911 call bring a good guy with a gun from a mile away or a minute away?"
Mehlville School District employs seven school resource officers—one at each high school and middle school. Officers from the middle schools also each patrol two or three elementary schools in the district.
Funding for school resource officers costs the school district a little over $350,000 a year. The school district takes on about 75 percent of the financial burden, and the rest is picked up by the St. Louis County Police Department, said Brian Lane, assistant superintendent.
Superintendent Eric Knost sent a message to parents and staff saying the school district is doing all it can to keep schools safe:
I want to reassure our community that student and staff safety is our number priority in the Mehlville School District. We are constantly reviewing our practices and considering potential improvements to even better ensure a safe and nurturing environment. I can promise you there are many, many people who love and care for your children surrounding them on a daily basis, and for their efforts I am grateful.
St. Louis County Police Department Chief Tim made national headlines earlier this week when he put forward the idea of arming school officials as a way of deterring future mass shootings.
“The school officials here overwhelming reject that idea, which was no surprise,” he said after a meeting of police and school officials Thursday. “There were a couple of hands that were raised when I said who was interested pursing that idea, but just a few. At this point, I don’t suspect we will have this conversation again about arming school officials until the next school shooting.”
Instead, Fitch said school officials were interested in implementing improved training on actions teachers can take when there is an active shooter in their building, threat assessments of individual buildings to identify security vulnerabilities and putting police officers in area elementary schools.
“That was their main interest,” he said about putting more officers in schools. “But their main concern about doing that is how are we going to pay for it?”
The idea of asking voters to approve a specific tax that could fund an added police presence was discussed as well, but Fitch said asking for tax increases is always a “significant hurdle.”
The St. Louis County Police immediately increased its presence at the elementary schools it provides security for following the massacre and Fitch said “that is not going to stop.” This will involve random visits to schools and walk-throughs along with having an officer present at the beginning and end of the school day.
LaPierre's speech was a call to supporters to mobilize around a new vision of American domestic security, at a time when voices for gun control are steadily rising. On Friday morning before the press conference, President Obama released a video citing a petition by hundreds of Americans calling for swift action.
At the grassroots level, groups like Newtown United, a group of Newtown neighbors, are working to address major issues related to the tragedy, including gun control, violent media, mental health and legislation.
Newtown locals responded to the NRA press conference. Suzy DeYoung, a Newtown parent, coach and resident for nine years who has three children, said LaPierre's speech was playing to people’s fears.
“People are much smarter than this,” DeYoung said. “He is saying we need to be protected from guns by more guns. This lack of logic speaks for itself, and I truly believe the response you are abut to see from parents all around the world will offer better commentary than I ever could."
Joanna Zachos, a mother in Sandy Hook, CT said that while she supports an increase in gun control and personally does not believe in guns at all, that the larger problem goes "way beyond that."
"The problem we have is our immunity to violence as a society as a whole," she said. "Violent video games, violent movies, addiction to horror films. We've developed immunity to violence and violent images."
LaPierre also lamented violence in video games, music videos and "blood-soaked" films. But his central solution seemed to be a great mobilization of gun-carrying "good guys," a term he used repeatedly but did not define, who might be more present and respond more quickly than police.
"If we truly cherish our kids, more than our money, more than our celebrities, more than our sports stadiums, we must give them the greatest level of protection possible," LaPierre said. "And that security is only available with properly trained, armed 'good guys'."
LaPierre did not take questions from reporters, and did not acknowledge the protesters.
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