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Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-04-03

A task force backed by the US gun-rights lobby on Tuesday proposed placing armed guards in schools to protect children from gun-wielding attackers. Advocates of tighter rules on bearing firearms immediately criticised the idea.

A task force funded by the National Rifle Association, the top U.S. gun rights group, unveiled a plan on Tuesday to train armed security personnel in every school in response to the December school massacre in Connecticut - a proposal swiftly condemned by gun control advocates.

The proposal came ahead of a debate among Connecticut state lawmakers – due to begin on Wednesday - over a package of gun control measures. Supporters of the measures have described them as the most comprehensive in the country.

The Connecticut bill is widely expected to pass, and Obama is set to visit the state on Monday. The bill’s measures include an expansion of the state’s assault weapons ban, background checks for all firearms sales, and a ban on the sale or purchase of ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds.

Yet gun rights advocates question whether the legislation would have done anything to stop Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old who blasted his way in to the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown on Dec. 14.

On Wednesday, in Denver, Obama was stepping up his call for universal background checks for gun buyers as well as his demands for Congress to at least vote on an assault weapons ban and limits on large-capacity ammunition magazines.

Obama’s trip is heavy with political symbolism because the state of Colorado, where Denver is located, has expanded gun control laws despite being a state where gun ownership is a cherished right. The state was also the site of a mass shooting at a cinema last summer that killed 12 people.

Growing divide in the US

Such shootings have sparked a growing divide in the US, as Obama champions more gun control and the powerful National Rifle Association gun lobby maintains that more guns keep people safer and have succeeded in blocking many efforts to impose stricter gun control citing the right to bear arms enshrined in the US Constitution.

On Tuesday, the NRA-backed task force led by Asa Hutchinson - a former Drug Enforcement Administration chief, Republican congressman and Homeland Security Department official - unveiled 225 pages of proposals that follow December’s call by NRA Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre for placing armed guards in all schools.

The task force recommended 40 to 60 hours of training - to be developed and carried out by the NRA - for armed security officers or staff members in each school.

Gun control advocates were quick to criticise the NRA-backed panel’s plan.

“Once again, the NRA leadership is missing the point,” the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a gun control group, said of the task force recommendations.

Safe schools

“The American public is calling for a comprehensive solution that not only addresses tragic school shootings, but also helps prevent the thousands of senseless gun deaths each year,” the group added, touting expanded background checks for gun buyers and other gun control proposals in Congress.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said the task force recommendations would fail to keep schools safe and urged Congress to pass new gun control laws.

Still, Mark Mattioli, whose son was among the children killed in Newtown, attended the news conference and said he welcomed the recommendations as “real solutions that will make our kids safer. And that’s what we need.”

While the NRA commissioned the task force’s study, Hutchinson said his 12-member panel was fully independent. The task force included a former Secret Service head, police and security officers, and representatives from Phoenix RBT Solutions, a law enforcement training firm.

The Democratic-controlled Senate, seen as more friendly to gun control legislation than the Republican-led House of Representatives, is due to take up legislation this month.

But proposals backed by Obama to ban assault weapons and crack down on high-capacity ammunition clips appear unlikely to pass, and universal background checks face a tough fight.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-04-03


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