The National Rifle Association said in a press conference in Washington, D.C. Friday morning that it urges Congress to pass legislation that would allow school staff to arm themselves. This statement came as a response to the Newtown, Conn., shooting that claimed the lives of 26 children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14.
“I call on Congress today to act immediately, to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every school — and to do it now, to make sure that blanket of safety is in place when our children return to school in January,” said NRA’s Wayne LaPierre. “There’ll be time for talk and debate later. This is the time, this is the day for decisive action. We can’t wait for the next unspeakable crime to happen before we act. We can’t lose precious time debating legislation that won’t work. We mustn’t allow politics or personal prejudice to divide us. We must act now.
“For the sake of the safety of every child in America, I call on every parent, every teacher, every school administrator and every law enforcement officer in this country to join us in the National School Shield Program and protect our children with the only line of positive defense that’s tested and proven to work,” LaPierre said.
The statement from the NRA included an urge to crack down on violence in the media and violent video games. The NRA received criticism for its statement, including from New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg who called it “a shameful evasion of the crisis facing our country.”
Rockingham Guns & Ammo gun store owner Robert E. Lee agrees with the NRA.
“I think the best thing would be if every last teacher was armed and every last teacher should be trained on a firearm,” Lee said on Friday after the NRA issued its statement. “I think at schools there should be security at every entrance and roving security inside. The main thing is that the weapon that was used in the shooting can’t kill anyone on its own; it has to have an operator. Everyone else in this country shouldn’t have to pay because we have a few mentally unstable people. Control of firearms will hurt every individual in this county, because law enforcement and the military do not camp out in our backyard; we have to have the right to protect ourselves.”
Lee said banning firearms empowers criminals who bypass laws and steal firearms.
“Felons can’t even come into a gun shop,” said Lee. “A good citizen is needed to protect you against a bad citizen with an illegal firearm.”
Lisa McLendon of Hamlet is studying to become a science and history teacher for grades one through eight. She lost a child early in her life, and said she identifies with the survivors of the Sandy Hook school shooting. She also agrees with the NRA’s stance.
“Education begins at home,” said McLendon. “In the case of the elementary school, teachers should be fully certified and fully trained (on a firearm). You don’t want to put a child in the middle of that, and in an elementary school, the firearm shouldn’t be seen. I think the fact that criminals would know it’s there would deter them.”
McLendon said she believes that firearms should be more visible from middle school on up, and parents should educate their children about the Sandy Hook shooting and tell their children why they might see firearms on their teachers. She also believes schools should have bullet-proof glass the way prisons do.
Richmond County Schools Superintendent George Norris said he does not agree with the NRA’s statement.
“We would not be interested in arming teachers,” said Norris on Friday. “It’s an absolutely ridiculous statement. Teachers are not in charge of that kind of thing. They are not there to fight off intruders. It’s an outrageous statement. We already have good security, I feel like. There should be no door that doesn’t lock and we keep our doors locked. We have talked about using keypads, which we could change often. We sent a statement out to parents this week telling them we have a handle on this. I think (Sandy Hook) was an isolated incident, and not something we can prepare for. We do drills and we have safety plans. It’s a terrible, terrible thing but I’m not sure you could keep these kinds of things from happening. If the guy is going to kill himself anyways, there isn’t much else we can do to him.”
Norris, in response to the shooting, said earlier this week, “We are deeply saddened by the tragedy that occurred last week at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Our hearts go out to the children and families impacted by this senseless act of violence, as well as the educators who remain devastated by the loss of their students and colleagues.
“These events remind us of our responsibilities to keep our students safe in Richmond County Schools. Although it is difficult to prepare for an act like the one that took so many lives on Friday, our schools have safety plans in place and conduct periodic drills to better protect our children in the event of an emergency situation.
“The Richmond County Schools and our Company Police Force have an excellent relationship with the Hamlet and Rockingham police departments, the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office and the State Highway Patrol. All of these agencies give our schools their highest priority.
“It is important that we continue to work with one another to ensure the safety of our children and our community. The safety of our children is our highest priority,” Norris concluded.
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at email@example.com.