Transcript: Asa Hutchinson’s remarks on the NRA’s program to install armed security personnel at schools
Transcribed and edited by Jenny Jiang
Transcript of press conference remarks by former Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark.) on the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) school “shield” program in response to the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on Dec. 21, 2012:
One of the first responsibilities I learned at Homeland Security was the importance of protecting our nation’s critical infrastructure.
And there’s nothing as critical to our nation’s well-being than our children’s safety. They’re this country’s future and our most precious resource.
We all understand that our children should be safe in school, but it’s also essential that the parents understand and have confidence in that safety.
As a result of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, that confidence across this nation has been shattered.
Assurance of school safety must be restored with a sense of urgency. That is why I am grateful that the National Rifle Association has asked me to lead a team of security experts to assist our schools, parents, and our communities.
I took this assignment on one condition: That my team of experts will be independent and will be guided solely by what are the best security solutions for the safety of our children while in school.
Even though we’re just starting this process, I envision this initiative will have two key elements.
First of all, it will be based on a model security plan – a comprehensive strategy for school security based upon the latest, most up-to-date technical information from the foremost experts in their fields.
This model security plan will serve as a template – a set of best practices, principles, and guidelines that every school in America can tweak as needed and tailor to their own set of circumstances.
Every school and community is different but this model security plan will allow every school to choose among its various components to develop a school safety strategy that fits their own unique circumstance, whether it’s a large urban school or a small rural school such as we have in Arkansas and everything in between.
Armed, trained, qualified school security personnel will be one element of that plan but by no means the only element.
If a school decides for whatever reason that it doesn’t want or need armed security personnel, that of course is a decision to be made by the parents and the local school board at the local level.
The second point I want to make is that this is a program that does not depend upon massive fundings from local authorities or the federal government. Instead, it will make use of local volunteers serving in their own communities.
In my home state of Arkansas, my son was a volunteer with a local group called Watchdog Dads, who volunteer their time at schools to patrol playgrounds and provide a measure of added security.
President Clinton initiated a program called Cops in Schools but the federal response is not sufficient for today’s tasks.
Whether they’re retired police, retired military, or rescue personnel, I think there are people in every community in this country who would be happy to serve if only someone asked them and gave them the training and the certifications to do so.
The National Rifle Association is the natural obvious choice to sponsor this program. Their gun safety, marksmanship, and hunter education programs have set the standard for well over a century. Over the past 25 years, their Eddie Eagle Gun Safety program has taught over 26 million kids that real guns aren’t toys and today child gun accidents are at the lowest levels ever recorded.
School safety is a complex issue with no simple single solution but I believe trained, qualified, armed security is one key component among many that can provide the first line of [deterrence] as well as the last line of defense.
Again, I welcome the opportunity to serve this vital, potentially life-saving effort.
Thank you very much.