Reaction varied to NRA proposal to have armed officers in all schools

Dec. 21, 2012 at 6:21 a.m.
Updated Dec. 22, 2012 at 6:22 a.m.

Activist  protests during a statement by National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre, left, during a news conference in response to the Connecticut school shooting on Friday in Washington.

Activist protests during a statement by National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre, left, during a news conference in response to the Connecticut school shooting on Friday in Washington.

Reactions of area superintendents was mixed to the National Rifle Association's proposal to place an armed guard in every school in the U.S.

"Armed guards cannot be everywhere at any given time," said Yorktown Superintendent Deborah Kneese, whose district does not have school resource officers on campus.

The nation's largest gun-rights lobby called Friday for armed police officers to be posted in every American school to stop the next killer "waiting in the wings."

The National Rifle Association broke its silence Friday on last week's shooting rampage at a Connecticut elementary school that left 26 children and staff dead.

"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," said Wayne LaPierre, the group's chief executive officer.

He said Congress should immediately appropriate funds to post an armed police officer in every school. Meanwhile, he said the NRA would develop a school emergency response program that would include volunteers from the group's 4.3 million members to help guard children.

His armed-officers idea was immediately lambasted by gun control advocates, and not even the NRA's point man on the effort seemed willing to go so far. Former Republican Rep. Asa Hutchinson, of Arkansas, whom LaPierre named national director of the program, said in an interview that decisions about armed guards in schools should be made by local districts.

"I think everyone recognizes that an armed presence in schools is sometimes appropriate," Hutchinson said. "That is one option. I would never want to have a mandatory requirement for every school district to have that."

He also noted that some states would have to change their laws to allow armed guards at schools.

Goliad County Sheriff Kirby Brumby said enacting the NRA's proposal could deter shooters at schools.

But, he said, placing an armed guard on every campus in America may not be realistic, because of budget constraints of schools and law enforcement agencies.

"I would have to have three more officers who are armed, and to me that is just not a feasible option. It is too costly," Brumby said.

Hutchinson said he'll offer a plan in January that will consider other measures such as biometric entry points, patrols and consideration of school layouts to protect security.

Some Crossroads area schools already have armed school resource officers on campus.

The Cuero school district has two school resource officers, one primarily assigned to the high school and one that floats around to the district's other four campuses, said superintendent Jim Haley.

Both are Cuero police officers and are armed.

"Some of the parents that called me following the Connecticut school shooting suggested we have officers at every school," Haley said.

"If they are armed and wearing proper protective gear, they could be a deterrent or a first responder."

Robert Jaklich, Victoria school district's superintendent, said his administration is in the process of reviewing their safety procedures with the Victoria County Sheriff's Office.

"We have very good procedures in place already, but there's always room for improvement," Jaklich said. "I'd love to hear more information on how we can make our schools safe."

The sheriff's office took over the district's school resource officer program earlier this fall. The Victoria Police Department previously managed the program.

Two Victoria police officers still work at the district's two high schools, patrolling the campuses on a daily basis.

A newly appointed sergeant, set to oversee the SRO program, will be housed at Liberty Academy, another high school part of the VISD.

At each of the district's four middle school campuses, a deputy from the sheriff's office maintains office hours and regular patrol daily as well.

However, the district's 17 elementary schools do not house armed officers on a regular basis.

If any incident breaks out on one of the elementary school campuses, the SROs from the nearest high schools or middle school is sent out to address the matter.

Campuses outside city limits, such as William Wood Elementary School and Mission Valley Elementary School, do not have assigned SROs but are serviced by deputies patrolling the area.

The superintendent said standard operating procedures in the event of an intruder vary depending on when each campus was built.

"Every campus has individual needs," Jaklich said. "We just want to make sure there is a uniform process across the district and that our employees know what to do in any situation."

But not all superintendents support having armed guards on campus.

Bob Wells, Edna school district superintendent, said the National Rifle Association's approach is more detrimental than helpful.

"It gives the campus a different tone," he said. "I'm not ready to make schools into prisons."

He said, while some officers might serve a purpose in some schools, it wouldn't work in a school like Edna.

"I think total security is a fantasy," he said. "I'm not sure there is a solution."



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