NRA: Armed officers in every school

Some local experts agree with idea to protect children

Published On: Dec 21 2012 01:56:46 PM EST   Updated On: Dec 21 2012 03:36:57 PM EST

A week after the tragic school shooting in Newtown, Conn., the debate about gun control and school safety continues to heat up.

The National Rifle Association issued a statement they would wait to make a statement to allow for mourning and prayer and a full investigation of the shooting.

At a news conference Friday morning, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said, "Now, we must speak."

"Nobody has addressed the most important question we face: How do we protect our children right now starting today in a way we know works?" LaPierre said.

The NRA says it's time to protect children the way Americans protect airports, celebrities, politicians and money.

"It is harder to get into the courthouse or the airport or City Hall than it is to get into an elementary school," Michael Knox, a firearms forensics expert and former Jacksonville police officer, said before the NRA news conference was held.

LaPierre said the news media demonizes gun owners instead of confronting the moral failings of American society.

To protect children now, the NRA wants Congress to make sure there's a trained, armed officer in every school in the nation by the time school starts again in the new year.

"Like all Americans, we were shocked. We've discussed all options to protect our children," NRA President David Keene said.

"Politicians pass law for gun-free school zones, post signs advertising them, and in doing so, they tell every insane killer in America that schools are the safest place to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk," LaPierre said.

The NRA's leadership called for protection surrounding children that's as impressive and as effective as the security offered to the president of the United States. They mean someone trained to use force when necessary and properly equipped to do it.

"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," LaPierre said.

The NRA's suggestions make sense to some local experts.

"Actually, the NRA is making some good sense with their thinking about this process," Channel 4 crime and safety analyst Ken Jefferson said.

Jefferson remembers when the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office had officers in elementary schools and believes the NRA's idea can be effective.

"They were there, trained, armed in the event something like this were to happen," Jefferson said. "At least you have some mechanism in place to stop it or delay it until help arrives."

"More guns is not the solution. We have to get more serious about gun control, not putting more guns in schools," Duval County Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said.

Vitti, however, agreed with the idea of officers in schools, but gave a resounding no to arming teachers or staff. He did say there need to be adjustments in schools following the Newtown tragedy.

"So throughout the day, we're guaranteeing an officer will be at each elementary school at some point throughout the day," Vitti said. "But the focus at our schools should be teaching and learning. Our teachers are professionals in engaging children, not having firearms."

LaPierre went beyond just discussing guns, also calling for a "national database of the mentally ill."