By Lars Dalseide | December 21 2012 16:43

Former Congressman Asa Hutchinson

NRA's National School Shield Emergency Response Program

Former Congressman Asa Hutchinson will head up the NRA National School Shield Emergency Response Program One of the first responsibilities I learned at Homeland Security was the importance of protecting our nation’s critical infrastructure, and there is nothing more critical to our nation’s well being than our children’s safety. They are this country’s future and her most precious resource.

We all understand that our children should be safe in school, but it is also essential that the parents have confidence in that safety. As a result of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, that confidence has been shattered. Assurance of school safety must be restored with a sense of urgency.

That is why I am grateful that the NRA has asked me to lead a team of security experts to assist our schools, parents and 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 at school.

Even though we are just starting this process, I envision this initiative will have two key elements: First, it would be based on a model security plan — a comprehensive strategy for school security based on 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, if 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 situation, whether it's a large urban school, a small rural school or anything 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 parents at the local level.

The second point I want to make is that this will be a program that doesn't depend on massive funding from local authorities or the federal government. Instead, it'll 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. 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 certification 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 Gunsafe 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. And I welcome the opportunity to serve in this vital, potentially lifesaving effort.

Thank you very much.

Press Conference at the NRA National School Shield Emergency Response Program

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