The National Rifle Association (NRA)’s “School Shield” task force released its recommendations for school safety improvements on Tuesday, which included “model legislation” for placing armed guards in schools. But the mechanism former Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R-AR), the task force’s head, proposed for making sure these guards wouldn’t hurt students were background checks — something the organization opposes for gun owners more broadly. “Yes, yes, [background checks are] part of the recommendation,” Hutchison bragged, without the slightest sense of irony. “They would have to go through background checks, they would have to go through testing and screening and then 40 to 60 hours of training.”
Reporters quickly poked holes in the group’s effort, questioning why it didn’t recommend limits on magazine size (which would have reduced the carnage at Newtown, Connecticut) and ignore research showing that more guns lead to greater deaths. Hutchinson didn’t have much in the way of answers. The former Congressman shrugged off the inconvenient questions and insisted that had teachers or law enforcement officials had access to weapons in Newtown, they would have saved lives.
Q: You talk about response time. As we saw in Newtown, the shooter was able to get off dozens of rounds before anyone was able to get there. Did you think about recommending to the NRA and lawmakers that they look at limiting magazines?
HUTCHINSON: In reference to Newtown, what was the first thing the school did after the incident? They got armed officers there to protect the children. It was very importance for the confidence of the parents. And there they did not have response capability. You had teachers giving up their lives. And so we want to teachers to have to do that. We want a better response …
Though the NRA task force’s recommendations were premised on the idea that it’s easy for shooters to get into schools now, the NRA is actively opposing legislation requiring the same background checks on for all gun purchasers that its task force supports for armed guards.
While there is little real evidence that armed school guards can save lives, and some evidence that they tend to harass students of color, universal background checks are the single most obvious and effective way of reducing gun violence on the table today. A high-capacity magazine ban, which the NRA opposes, would also limit the ability of mass shooters to kill.
Hutchinson also could not explain how many guards a school would need to be safe, how expensive the plan would be to implement nationally, or how it could protect kids at recess or otherwise outside.
During an appearance on CNN’s The Situation Room, Hutchinson admitted “Yes, absolutely, I’m open to expanding background checks.”