President Barack Obama proposed universal background checks and prohibitions on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines like the ones used in the Newtown where a gunman killed 26 people, including 20 children, in an elementary school last month.
A month after that horrific massacre, Obama also used his presidential powers to enact 23 measures that don’t require the backing of lawmakers. The president’s executive actions include ordering federal agencies to make more data available for background checks, appointing a director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and directing the Centers for Disease Control to research gun violence.
Related, Gov. Nathan Deal told the Georgia Chamber of Commerce’s annual Eggs and Issues breakfast this morning that he sees value in the controversial proposal of Rep. Paul Battles, R-Cartersville, to allow local school boards to arm principals if they so choose, according to a Morris News Service story
“That one does have some merit,” said Deal, in what is as close as he ever gets to endorsing anyone else’s proposals. “If someone is going to be in an environment around children, they certainly need to be trained. I think it’s one that may receive favorable consideration by the General Assembly”
Here is reaction from some education groups to the Obama plan:
The National Association of School Resource Officers Executive Director Mo Canady:
The President’s proposals demonstrate that his administration fully understands the training and role of specially trained, carefully selected school resources officers. The White House proposals are right on target in this regard.
We’re happy that the President’s proposal does not mention armed guards. Instead, it refers only to specially trained school resource officers. There’s been a lot of confusion about armed guards recently and NASRO agrees that SROs are the only armed persons who should work on school campuses. To arm others, especially educators or volunteers, could be a recipe for disaster.
The president is absolutely correct to advocate for a comprehensive emergency management plan for every school. NASRO has helped schools develop such plans for years. We’re ready and eager to help the administration create model plans for schools.
National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel:
The senseless tragedy in Newtown was a tipping point and galvanization for action. As educators, we have grieved too long and too often—for the children killed, their families and the heroic educators who gave their lives trying to protect their students. Now more than ever we need to do what is necessary to make sure every child in our nation’s public schools has a safe and secure learning environment.
We commend President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden for moving swiftly and presenting concrete, bold steps to keep children safe and begin addressing gun violence in America. We believe the common-sense recommendations put forth by President Obama are an important first step toward keeping children safe, providing more support for students and educators, and keeping military-style weapons out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them. To solve the problem, we must have not only meaningful action on preventing gun violence but also bullying prevention and much greater access to mental health services, so that educators and families can identify problems and intervene before it’s too late.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan:
I have been proud to serve President Obama and this administration since day one, but today was one of my proudest days. The actions that the President is taking and proposing to reduce gun violence echo what America’s educators say they need to better protect and support students in school and in their communities. I thank the President and Vice President Biden for leading this critical national conversation. America’s schools are among the safest places in our country. The President’s comprehensive approach will make schools and communities safer.
We will never fully understand why 20 first-graders and six educators were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School — or why still more students and educators lost their lives at Columbine, Chardon or Red Lake high schools, Westside Middle School, Virginia Tech or the many other campuses and communities in our country where guns have cut short dreams and created fear. We can, however, take a number of common-sense steps to help prevent future tragedies.
We can expand student support systems by allowing communities to decide what they need most, including more school resource officers, psychologists, social workers and counselors. A renewed commitment to students’ mental and emotional well-being is key.
Helping schools reduce bullying, drug abuse, other forms of violence and problem behaviors is also vital. And as we seek to prevent tragedies, we cannot be reluctant to do research and collect data so we can understand the causes of gun violence.
Our goals are simple: fewer children dying from gun violence and fewer children living in fear. Harder to realize are the policies, actions, and value changes necessary to reach those goals.
Today, looking into the eyes of parents who have lost children due to gun violence, I am more committed than ever, and the President is, too. Those parents’ unimaginable heartbreak and extraordinary strength must motivate us to act. Now is the time. Our children, families, educators, communities and our country deserve better. We can’t let them down.
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten:
The tragic events of Newtown must serve as a clarion call for immediate action to keep our communities safe from gun violence and ensure schools are the safe sanctuaries our children need to learn and grow. We applaud President Obama and Vice President Biden for heeding this call for action with a series of common-sense, balanced proposals that will make our nation safer, including:
•Banning the sale of the kind of large ammunition clips that were used to massacre 26 children and adults and injure others at Sandy Hook Elementary School;
•Expanding background checks before purchasing a gun and cracking down on those who lie on background checks;
•Cracking down on illegal gun trafficking;
•Banning assault weapons that have no other use but to kill a large number of people quickly;
•Enforcing current gun laws and investing in research around combating gun violence; and
•Investing in mental health services.
Schools across our country are in desperate need of resources to create safe, secure and nurturing learning environments, and we are glad the president has recognized that need. Some schools, due to their remoteness or following horrendous tragedies such as the massacre in Newtown, may decide that appropriately trained police officers are necessary. Other schools may decide instead that more school guidance counselors, social workers and psychologists are needed. These decisions should be made by individual school communities following safety audits.
Under no circumstances should educators have the responsibility of being armed, and schools should not become armed fortresses. The role of educators is to teach and nurture our children, not to be armed guards.
National PTA President Betsy Landers:
National PTA applauds President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden for the robust plan they put forth today addressing gun violence prevention. For decades, National PTA has called on parents, educators, community members, and government to prioritize this issue to ensure a safe learning environment for all students.
National PTA agrees with the Administration in that we need to offer safety training and comprehensive mental health services as well as to implement:
•Universal background checks for the sale and possession of firearms;
•A ban on non-sporting ammunition in high-capacity magazines.
•Reenactment and expansion of an effective federal ban on the sale and possession of military-style assault weapons.
As the President conveyed in his remarks, our No. 1 task, as a nation, is to protect our children. To achieve this, National PTA believes schools also must be completely gun-free. The Administration’s recommendation to expand the school resource officer program therefore comes as a disappointment.
Despite this, National PTA praises the Administration’s swift action and looks forward to the implementation of these new proposals and executive actions as well as additional bipartisan legislative solutions.
The National Association of Secondary School Principals and the National Association of Elementary School Principals
NASSP and NAESP applaud President Obama for his proposals to reduce gun violence and we pledge our support to ongoing efforts to make those proposals a reality. The president’s proposals reflect many of the recommendations that our organizations submitted last week to Vice President Biden. We’re encouraged by the call for support for more resource officers, school counselors, and psychologists, and that the decisions are made locally with schools. The recognition of the importance of open lines of communication among schools, community health agencies, and law-enforcement officials is also commendable. Stronger efforts to reduce bullying will be met with wide acceptance from school leaders, as will more resources to identify and address mental health issues and more training for educators to constructively participate in those efforts.
NAESP and NASSP are calling for more coordination between education and mental health service systems as a part of the comprehensive movement to prevent future gun and related violence in schools. Principals and mental health service providers need the ability to get students and their families the help they need more quickly without unnecessary policy barriers. “Principals should be able to have immediate access to services for children who repeatedly demonstrate disturbing behaviors. Not years later,” said NAESP Executive Director, Gail Connelly. “The Administration and Congress must help set the models for how schools and communities can work together to serve and protect all students. This is the type of systemic change our nation needs to put an end to the horrible violence like Sandy Hook,” she said.
JoAnn Bartoletti, NASSP Executive Director, commented, “No one internalizes more than principals what President Obama called our first task as a society: To keep our children safe. Within schools, that safety relies not on guns, but on trusting relationships and a feeling of belonging.” Similarly, the best way to defend against an attack from the outside is to prevent it by maintaining open communication among various community agencies and entities, which increases the chances of threat detection. We thank the president and vice president for the opportunity to participate in the process that led to these proposals and we look forward to working with them in the coming months to further their effect.”
–from Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog