NRA President David Keene says there should be discussion first about arming schools
Facing widespread outrage over the National Rifle Association's response to the Newtown, Connecticut, school massacre, the group's president Thursday tried to clarify, saying that schools should decide for themselves how to protect their children.
"Some will want police officers there. Others of them will want private security guards," David Keene said in an exclusive CNN interview. "There may be some place they want volunteers to do it. We're willing to work with everybody on those questions."
The nation's largest teachers union liked some of Keene's comments, but said the NRA is ignoring crucial points to prevent school shootings.
Keene's interview came nearly a week after NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre addressed media -- but did not take questions -- and said that all schools in the United States should immediately have armed officers. That is the only way, LaPierre said, to prevent another massacre like that at Sandy Hook Elementary, which left 20 children and six adults dead.
On December 21, LaPierre called for armed officers in "every single school" and said that action should be taken before children return to school at the start of the year.
"I call on Congress today to act immediately to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every single school in this nation and to do it now to make sure that blanket safety is in place when our kids return to school in January," he said.
LaPierre continued, "Before Congress reconvenes, before we engage in any lengthy debate over legislation, regulation or anything else, as soon as our kids return to school after the holiday break, we need to have every single school in America immediately deploy a protection program proven to work, and by that I mean armed security."
On Thursday, Keene took questions about LaPierre's statements, which were heavily criticized, even by some NRA members.
The NRA boasts 4 million members.
"Whether an individual school wants that kind of protection or doesn't want that kind of protection is really up to the individual school," Keene said. "And when we made that statement, when Wayne LaPierre spoke about a week ago, he suggested that what has to happen, and what should happen, is in every school district, administrators, teachers and parents should sit down and ask what's needed to protect the students in that school."
Keene seemed to be broadening the NRA's position by encouraging wider discussion, said Mo Canady, executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers, a nonprofit nonpolitical group that trains armed officers in schools.
But Canady is alarmed that the NRA thinks "armed guards" in school is a solution.
In his nationally televised address on December 21, LaPierre said armed guards should work in school like they do at "airports, office buildings, power plants, court houses, even sports stadiums."
"We want some clarification on what he means by armed guard," said Canady. "An officer working in a school has to work with students, be engaged in the school day, develop relationships with students. They must be trained to do that, to be involved."
"We feel that could create more problems than it solves," he said.
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