And now, to tell you more about the program, I’d like to introduce the head of the effort, former U.S. congressman, former U.S. attorney for the western district of Arkansas, and former administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, the Honorable Congressman Asa Hutchinson.
FORMER REP. ASA HUTCHINSON, R-ARK.: Thank you, Wayne.
One of the first responsibilities I learned at Homeland Security was the importance of protecting our nation’s critical infrastructure. And there’s nothing more critical to our nation’s well being than our children’s safety. They are this country’s future and our most precious resource.
HUTCHINSON: We all understand that our children should be safe in school. But it is 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’m 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 at school. Even though we are just starting this process, I envision this initiative will have two key elements.
First of all, it would 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 its a large urban school or a small rural school such as we have in Arkansas 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 the parents and the local school board at the local level.
HUTCHINSON: The second point I want to make is that this will be a program that does not depend on massive funding 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 (ph) who volunteer their time at schools, who patrol playgrounds and provide a measure of added security. President Clinton initiated a program called Cops In School, but the federal response is not sufficient for today’s task.
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 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 Eddy Eagle (ph) gun safe 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 difference as well as the last line of defense.
Again, I welcome the opportunity to serve this vital, potentially life-saving effort.
HUTCHINSON: Thank you, very much.
LAPIERRE: (inaudible) thank you.
QUESTION: Do either of you feel like any talks with...
KEENE: As I indicated...
QUESTION: ... will stop gun...
KEENE: As I indicated at the outset, this is the beginning of a serious conversation. We won’t be taking questions today, but Andrew Arulanandam, our public affairs officer, is here.
KEENE: We will be willing to talk to anybody beginning on Monday. A text of the speech by Wayne and Asa Hutchinson’s remarks are available at nra.org.
I want to thank all of you for being with us. And I look forward to talking to you and answering any of your questions next week.
Thank you very much.
QUESTION: One question. One question, Mr. Keene?
QUESTION: (inaudible) White House for any discussions (ph)? Mr. Keene, is the door completely closed (inaudible) White House for any discussion, sir?