In an amazing Friday morning press conference in Washington DC, the National Rifle Association broke its weeklong silence following the horrific shooting of 26 people at a school in Newtown, CT, and called for a surge of gun-carrying "good guys" around American schools.
NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre called for a new kind of American domestic security revolving around armed civilians, arguing that "the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."
Maplewood Richmond Heights schools already has an armed School Resource Officer (SRO) at the high school and middle school, but not the elementary school.
Maplewood Police Sgt. Mike Martin said the SRO's chief duty is student safety, and that MRH has had an armed officer for many years.
MRH Director of Communications Brian Adkisson said the MRH district would support an extension of the SRO program into the early childhood center and the elementary school, as "opposed to just having someone with a gun."
Adkisson said the SRO program goes beyond what the NRA suggested, benefiting the students and the community.
"He's a peacekeeper, a role model," Adkisson said. "He forms relationships with the students that goes beyond the school walls."
Adkisson said the question is how to fund an extension of the SRO program. He said it's currently split 50/50 with the MRH school district and the Maplewood Police Department. The elementary school is in Richmond Heights, so funding for an officer there would come from Richmond Heights.
Adkisson also said an armed officer is just one piece of the solution. He said gun control and support of those with mental illnesses are also important.
Suzy DeYoung, a Newtown parent, coach and resident for nine years who has three children, said LaPierre's speech was playing to people’s fears.
“People are much smarter than this,” DeYoung said. “He is saying we need to be protected from guns by more guns. This lack of logic speaks for itself, and I truly believe the response you are abut to see from parents all around the world will offer better commentary than I ever could."
Joanna Zachos, a mother in Sandy Hook, CT said that while she supports an increase in gun control and personally does not believe in guns at all, that the larger problem goes "way beyond that."
"The problem we have is our immunity to violence as a society as a whole," she said. "Violent video games, violent movies, addiction to horror films. We've developed immunity to violence and violent images."
LaPierre also lamented violence in video games, music videos and "blood-soaked" films. But his central solution seemed to be a great mobilization of gun-carrying "good guys," a term he used repeatedly but did not define, who might be more present and respond more quickly than police.
"If we truly cherish our kids, more than our money, more than our celebrities, more than our sports stadiums, we must give them the greatest level of protection possible," LaPierre said. "And that security is only available with properly trained, armed 'good guys'."