Lawmakers reserved after NRA demands firearms in schools

Authored By James Harrison

Having been backed by the National Rifle Association during their most recent campaigns, Tennessee lawmakers were hesitant to voice support for the gun-rights lobby’s call on Congress Friday to fund the placement of armed guards in each of the nation’s public schools.

Making remarks one week after a gunman murdered 20 children and six adult staff members at a Connecticut elementary school, along with his mother, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre suggested members of Congress were not doing all they could to ensure the protection of schoolchildren from rouge murderers, leaving them “utterly defenseless” to the “monsters and predators of this world.” 

“I call on Congress today to act immediately, to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every school-and to do it now, to make sure that blanket of safety is in place when our children return to school in January,” LaPierre said.

According to a recent Sunlight Foundation study, more than 50 percent of Congress has accepted campaign contributions from the nation’s largest gun-rights lobbying arm. Boasting more than 4 million members, the NRA poured more than $18.6 million into the most recent election cycle-in efforts both to support and defeat candidates. 

Benefiting from the organization’s support this year were both Reps. Chuck Fleischmann and Scott DesJarlais, along with Sen. Bob Corker. 

Asked to comment on LaPierre’s remarks Friday, Fleischmann, who boasted his NRA endorsement in television advertisements for his most recent campaign, voiced neither support nor disagreement.

As a father, the events in Connecticut break my heart,” Fleischmann said in an emailed statement. “Children are our greatest treasure, and we need to ensure their safety, particularly in a school environment. No student should ever have to be afraid of going to school. Brenda and I send our prayers to the victims and their families.” 

Fleischmann accepted $2,000 in NRA contributions this year. 

Offices for both DesJarlais and Corker did not respond to requests made by for comment. DesJarlais and Corker accepted NRA contributions this year of $2,000 and $4,950, respectively.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, one of the top six recipients of NRA cash in his most recent election, accepted $9,900 in contributions in 2006. 

On Friday, Alexander indicated that congressional action would not be able to ensure student safety, as LaPierre suggested. The senator added his hope that school systems at the local level would be reviewing their current safety measures in the wake of the shooting.

“Washington can’t make school safe, but parents, communities and teachers can,” Alexander said in an emailed statement. “In light of the tragedy at Newtown, I would think every local school board would be thinking about whether they need to take additional steps to make their schools safe from guns and other acts of violence.”

Were the gun lobby’s call to gain traction, Congress would be tasked with providing funding for at least one armed guard in each of the nation’s 98,817 public schools-1,803 of which are in Tennessee.

According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor, the annual mean wage for a security guard at elementary and secondary schools is $31,420, making a rough estimate of the cost of equipping schools with armed guards more than $3 billion nationally-and more than $56 million statewide.

According to a Wall Street Journal report, a Department of Education survey conducted during the 2009-2010 school year found that 23,200 of the nation’s public schools-28 percent of those surveyed-reported having armed guards on campus at least once a week.

In the week following the attack, President Barack Obama indicated he would take immediate steps to pursue gun control-related legislation.