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Asa Hutchinson on CNN's State of the Union

Sunday, December 23, 2012

CANDY CROWLEY:  In a similar vein, lawmakers in a growing number of states including Oklahoma, Missouri, South Dakota, Virginia and Oregon will consider laws allowing teachers and school administrators to carry firearms at school. The NRA is moving ahead to have their national model school shield in place to schools that want it. To talk about the dangers and backlash is the program director Asa Hutchinson. Thank you for joining us. One of the thing that struck me is there was no mention of any gun control in favor or in opposition, so i wanted to get you on the record. Will the NRA oppose any attempt to put new gun laws in place?

ASA HUTCHINSON:  Well, that's a separate debate. My responsibility is school safety, and I think that's where the debate should center. We've got to act in a very urgent fashion to protect the children. My responsibility is to convene a high-level panel of experts to develop a model program for schools and new tools to use to protect our children. One of those options should be armed guards who are trained, but that should be an option for the schools. One of the tools that they can utilize, but that's the debate. It shouldn't be on new legislation as much as it should be on what to do to protect our children in school safety. that's my focus.

CROWLEY:  Debate, as you know, has a way of shaping itself, and you are working for the NRA. So I'm trying to find out if there's anything in terms of gun control. We know what's out there, sir. There's people that want to reinstate the ban on certain kinds of semi-automatic assault weapons. We know that people want to try and ban some of those ammo clips that can shoot as many as 100 and up of bullets in a short time. We know that there are those that want to close the loophole so if you buy a gun from a private owner, you have to go through a background check. Are any of these acceptable to the NRA?

HUTCHINSON:  Well, I'm not going speak on that issue.

CROWLEY:  Don't you speak for the NRA. You don't work for the NRA and they don't pay you?

HUTCHINSON:  I'm an independent consultant for the NRA designed to focus on school safety. That is my mission. Now, what I will say in terms of further gun control legislation is that that is the wrong part of the debate. I think the focus should be on school safety. You can have bans on assault weapons or whatever weapons you wish, and it's not going to protect from a violent person. It's going to take someone who has security in the school. Timothy Mcveigh used fertilizer as his weapon. So let's not focus on the weapon as much as our response children. Capability and safety of the that's simply my responsibility, and that's what I'm going to do and we're going to take the best experts in across the country to give these options to the schools.

CROWLEY:  Without speaking for the NRA, do you personally think that there is any place for further restrictions on guns, particularly these high capacity guns?

HUTCHINSON: That's a debate that will take place. What I'm saying is it's not the solution. I want to look for solutions for safety in schools, and that's not the solution. That's the wrong debate to have if you want to talk about protecting our children. We have one-third of our schools right now of the 23,000 schools that have armed guards. Should the other two-thirds have armed guards? I certainly think it's an option that they should consider. It's not a novel approach, but it's a safety approach. There's other things that should be done. What I am going to be doing is looking at those options for the schools.

CROWLEY:  You can understand this that people listen to the NRA's response to focus on school safety and people saying, wait a second. To put more guns into the schools seems like exactly the wrong answer, that more guns is the wrong answer.

HUTCHINSON:  Certainly. that is a concern that's expressed. Again, you go back, though, through history. President Clinton started the cops program where you have resource officers who are armed in the schools as a result of that. There is partial funding, but it's very limited and cut back and insufficient, obviously. It's going to take over $2 billion if you put a federal funded program for an armed person at every school. I think there's voluntary programs to look at if you have trained people, and we want to set up a model training for this. It should be an option that the local school board finally makes the decision. I can understand skepticism, but i think that school safety is the debate. I think it is terrific that the nra is willing to fund experts and solutions free of cost to the schools to hopefully create a voluntary program.

CROWLEY:  It's more than skepticism. I want to read you two reactions to what the nra had to say. the first from mayor michael bloomberg who said they, meaning the NRA, offered a paranoid vision of a more dangerous and violent america where everyone is armed and no place is same. The NRA's lobbyists blamed everyone but nems for the crisis of gun violence. This is the new senator and he tweeted out walking out of another funeral and handed the NRA transcript, the most revolting, tone-deaf statement I've seen. Can I get your reaction to that reaction?

HUTCHINSON:  Well, live by my own statements, and I hope they look at those as well. They want to focus the debate on new laws and new prohibitions, and I'm saying that's the wrong debate. That's their solution. I believe a better solution is school safety initiatives, one of those options being an armed presence we have in one-third of the schools. If you have an option of sending a child to a school with an armed presence who are trained that can protect the children or a school that doesn't have that option, right now the polls show in America most people would select the more secure school, the one that invests in security. So let's help these schools, and let's don't have a false debate that's not going to increase safety in the long term for the most precious commodity in our society.

CROWLEY:  I think that the debate certain can be a holistic one, but to take guns out of the debate seems naive at this point, listening to the public debate. You know, yes, it has to do with school security, but it has to do with guns and mental health and any number of things. It seems to many people that this sole approach by the NRA does not take reality into consideration, that is, that some high capacity magazines and big guns are killing our children and killing people the on the streets.

HUTCHINSON: Candy, you're right in the context there should be a broad debate. Actually, the mental health issues is a central part of it. I think the comprehensiveness of our databases and the information we have in regard to that is an important part of it. Obviously, the violence in video games has been raised. There can be all of that debate. It's very appropriate. Some of those issues can enhance safety. I have one singular focus, and it's something that shouldn't be neglected. That's where I think the debate in America has been confused, is that we're going to come out with mandatory laws that every school has to have a teacher with a gun. I don't think teachers go to get their education to do that. They want -- that's why you need to have separate resource officers and armed guards to have that protection.

CROWLEY:  Let me ask you one final question, and that is, where does this end? Let's say, fine, people want to put armed professionals inside schools to protect children. There was a movie theater shot up in aurora and a shopping mall shot up in tucson. Where does it end? Can you arm every place that a gunman might go? Put ex-police officers, whatever? It seems never-ending.

HUTCHINSON:  You're right. It's a problem we have in our society, and you know, movie theaters are making those decisions. Many of them have retired police officers, off-duty police officers, malls have the same thing. So should we say we're not going to have the same type of protection going to school? Certainly there's some schools and there's going to be some parts of society that say we don't want to do that investment. We'll take the risk. But let's look simply at the schools right now, what our focus is, and i think this initiative for enhanced safety is the right direction.

CROWLEY:  Is that the kind of country that you want for krur children and your grandchildren, just armed people outside any number of public institutions?

HUTCHINSON: Well, what I wouldn't want would be someone carrying a terribly large weapon outside of a school, but I think when you have a trained officer -- for example, what's more sensitive than our airplanes? People resisted having weapons on airplanes, but I oversaw the federal air marshals. It's a deterrent. No one sees that weapon, but they're protected on that airplane. It is a huge, positive impact on safety. Schools are a sensitive environment as well, but you can provide safety and security with armed, trained personnel without putting fear in anyone.

CROWLEY:  Asa Hutchinson heading up the NRA school safety program.

Asa Hutchinson

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.