In a Friday morning press conference, the National Rifle Association broke its weeklong silence following the shooting of 26 people at a school in Newtown, CT and called for a surge of gun-carrying "good guys" around American schools.
NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre called for a new kind of American domestic security revolving around armed civilians, arguing that "the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."
"We care about our president, so we protect him with armed Secret Service agents," LaPierre said. "Members of Congress work in offices surrounded by Capitol Police officers. Yet, when it comes to our most beloved, innocent, and vulnerable members of the American family, our children, we as a society leave them every day utterly defenseless, and the monsters and the predators of the world know it, and exploit it."
Following the shooting in Newtown, the NRA was decidely silent on the issue, even hiding its Facebook page.
LaPierre's speech was a call to supporters to mobilize around a new vision of American domestic security, at a time when voices for gun control are steadily rising. On Friday morning before the press conference, President Obama released a video (above) citing a petition by hundreds of Americans calling for swift action.
At the grassroots level, groups like Newtown United, a group of Newtown neighbors, are working to address major issues related to the tragedy, including gun control, violent media, mental health and legislation.
In stark contrast, LaPierre called for a great mobilization of gun-carrying "good guys," a term he used repeatedly but did not define, who could be more present and respond more quickly than police.
"If we truly cherish our kids, more than our money, more than our celebrities, more than our sports stadiums, we must give them the greatest level of protection possible," LaPierre said. "And that security is only available with properly trained, armed 'good guys'."
LaPierre, who was interrupted twice by protesters who held signs in front of TV cameras, made a direct call for local action.
"I call on every parent. I call on every teacher. I call on every school administrator, every law enforcement officer in this country, to join with us and help create a national schools shield safety program to protect our children with the only positive line of defense that’s tested and proven to work," he said.
In his speech, LaPierre also accused the media of selling "violence against its own people" through violent video games, music videos and "blood-soaked" films. He did not take questions from reporters, and did not acknowledge the protesters.
Locally, both the Issaquah and Lake Washington school districts have said they plan to review safety procedures following the events in Newtown.
In its final newsletter before winter break, LWSD said:
As Dr. Pierce noted in her message on December 14, in light of this tragedy, we will review crisis plans as well as reach out to families and school communities to build greater awareness and knowledge regarding these plans. Dr. Pierce received many responses to her email, including some suggestions on how to make our schools safer.
The Safety Committee, which meets regularly, is a venue for the district to get advice from local emergency preparedness experts and for local fire and law enforcement to help the district become more prepared for disasters, whether natural or manmade. The committee is chaired by the district's risk and safety manager, and includes representatives from fire and police departments in King County, Kirkland, Redmond and Sammamish as well as principals, PTSA Emergency Preparedness representatives, and staff members from the facilities, transportation and communications groups.
Each school has its own safety committee, which is in charge of the school's safety plan. The plan as well as school building plan drawings are captured in Rapid Responder, a statewide web-based platform that is accessible only by schools, fire and police. In the case of an emergency, first responders can call up that school's emergency response plans, geospatial data and more than 300 data points per building, allowing them a faster and safer response to a crisis. Principals are responsible for ensuring that information is updated yearly and for tracking their safety drills every time they happen.
Drills and practice are critical to effective response in case of an emergency. Schools drill almost every month of the school year for fire, earthquake or other emergencies. One district-wide drill takes place each year, focusing on how to improve a particular aspect of emergency response. In October, the district took part in a statewide earthquake drill, using the opportunity to practice student/parent reunification processes.
More information on the district's safety and emergency planning efforts will be posted on the district website and shared with parents in January.