6:35 PM EST, December 21, 2012
The National Rifle Association, silent for a week after the horrific massacre of 20 first-graders and six women who tried to protect them at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, finally broke its silence.
At a "press conference" at which no questions were entertained, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre proposed that armed police officers be put in every school as a way to stop the alarming incidents of mass shootings that have gripped the United States in recent years.
Increasing school security is an idea that should not be dismissed out of hand, although the special interest group's critics are likely to do that. Many counties and cities around the nation are posting security in elementary schools out of caution. And many schools in Connecticut, mostly high schools, have hired "school resource officers" — law enforcement officials — since the late 1990s, with the help of federal grants.
But how posting a police officer in every one of the nation's nearly 99,000 schools would be paid for is a legitimate question.
The NRA says the federal government should foot the bill — perhaps an impractical suggestion considering Washington's budget deficit problems. It could amount to billions of dollars annually.
Also, an armed guard at Columbine High School didn't stop Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold from killing a dozen students and a teacher in 1999. The guard fired at but missed one of the shooters.
Nonetheless, the notion of armed protection at schools should be on the table. State and federal policy-makers should keep open minds while taking up a wide range of anti-gun violence measures.
But the idea of armed police in schools shouldn't be the NRA's only contribution to what it says it wants following Newtown — a "national conversation." To produce results, conversations have to flow both ways.
The hope is that post-Newtown, the NRA — once considered the most powerful special interest in America — will be open to effective gun restrictions permissible under the Second Amendment.
The terrible toll at Sandy Hook school is changing minds. Surely the NRA will want to be on the right side.
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