Washington — Teachers with guns are not the answer for North Carolina public schools, state superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson said Tuesday in response to a plan laid out in a study sponsored by the National Rifle Association.
"What is really important is that the professionals take care of safety in our schools," Atkinson said. "We don't need our teachers or principals to have yet another burden of having to think about guns ... Just having a person with a gun in a school is not the total answer."
Atkinson noted that 55 percent of the state's public high schools and middle schools have professional safety officers, all of whom have the authority to have a gun inside the schools.
Atkinson says she supports a comprehensive approach to security that gets to the root causes of violence and allows schools to employ more counselors, psychologists and social workers.
"We do need to take additional measures to make sure parents feel comfortable with their children in school," she said. "Each state needs to address its needs, and we don’t necessarily need a national organization to provide input or to provide the solutions."
State Department of Public Safety Secretary Kieran Shanahan said Tuesday that armed school resource officers are "just one of the many options already in place or under consideration."
"It is a decision that school districts must consider carefully and thoughtfully. Ultimately, it is up to each individual school district," he said.
NRA reps present plan for school safety
In releasing the NRA's plan, Asa Hutchinson, a Republican and former Congressman from Arkansas, said, every school would be better off with armed security but allowed that those decisions should be made at the local level.
The NRA recommended that schools train selected staff members to carry weapons and have at least one armed security officer.
"The presence of an armed security personnel in a school adds a layer of security and diminishes the response time that is beneficial to the overall security," said Hutchinson.
Hutchinson said security could be provided by trained staff members or by school resource officers — police officers assigned to schools that some districts already have.
The report was released a week before the Senate plans to begin debating gun control legislation.
The NRA opposes the main feature of the legislation, an expansion of background checks to cover nearly all gun purchases. But the group has long said the school safety study would be an important response to last December's massacre of first-graders and staff members at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
At the White House, press secretary Jay Carney said administration officials were working with lawmakers to try to reach a compromise on legislation that could be supported by both parties.
"The president has always recognized that this is something that would be a challenge but that in the wake of the horrific shootings in Newtown was an obligation of all of us to work on and try to get done," Carney said.
The spokesman commented as the White House revealed the president plans a trip next week to Connecticut, scene of the horrific shooting that spurred the new push for gun-control legislation. The aim of Obama's trip is to build pressure on Congress to pass legislation.
Obama also plans to focus on firearms curbs in a trip Wednesday to Denver, not far from last summer's mass shooting in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo.
Obama and his allies — mostly Democrats — are trying to bolster prospects that Congress will approve gun legislation. Chances of such action on Capitol Hill have waned since the Newtown shootings.
The 225-page NRA study, which Hutchinson said cost more than $1 million, made eight recommendations. They included changing state laws that might bar a trained school staff member from carrying a firearm, NRA-provided online assessments that schools could make of their safety procedures and better coordination with law enforcement agencies.
The study drew immediate opposition from the American Federation of Teachers, which represents 1.5 million teachers and other workers.
"Today's NRA proposal is a cruel hoax that will fail to keep our children and schools safe," said AFT President Randi Weingarten. "It is simply designed to assist gun manufacturers" to flood the nation with more guns and large magazine clips.
Hutchinson said the NRA dropped an earlier recommendation that retired police officers and other volunteers be armed to provide school safety. He said the idea encountered "great reluctance" from school superintendents.
The NRA had suggested the retired officer idea just days after the Newtown killings.
Several NRA-supplied security guards were at Tuesday's event — unusual for an announcement at the National Press Club, a building that houses offices for many news organizations.
Hutchinson said the NRA did not interfere with his task force's work. In a written statement, the NRA said the report "will go a long way to making America's schools safer."