Several members of a National Rifle Association-assembled taskforce to prevent gun violence in schools, which proposed increasing the number of armed individuals in schools, are employed by a firm that provides training and gear, including ammunition, to security personnel.
On April 2, the National School Shield Task Force, headed by former Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R-AR), released a report on improving school safety after being directed by the NRA to compose a series of recommendations to reduce violence in schools. During a press conference announcing the release of the report, Hutchinson repeatedly claimed that the recommendations in the report were not subject to NRA approval and are “fully independent from the NRA”:
Hutchinson stressed that the “initiative” is fully independent from the NRA -- which he said budgeted $1 million for the effort -- and that the pro-gun lobby was under no obligation to enforce any of its recommendations.
“The NRA has fulfilled its side of the bargain and has given us the level of independence,” he said. “These recommendations are the recommendations of task force. This is our event, and the NRA will separately consider and respond to it.”
In fact, the report presents a clear conflict of interest as five of the 13 named members of the taskforce are employees of Phoenix RBT Solutions, including the company's CEO. RBT Solutions is a global non-lethal ammunition distributor. According to their website, the company is a global distributor for Ultimate Training Munitions, a type of wax round specifically marketed by RBT Solutions to private security and law enforcement. RBT Solutions also sells a wide array training and defensive gear for security personnel and rents a “portable training facility.”
The report includes training guides developed in part by RBT Solutions for school resource officers and other armed school personnel that call for a minimum of 40 hours of training.
The National School Shield Task Force, beyond advocating for an increased armed security presence in schools, also recommends that schools be able to decide whether staff can receive training to carry a firearm in school.
In the "best practices guidelines" section, the report discusses the "potential benefits" to arming “teachers, principals, or custodial staff,” while also noting the high level of training that these individuals would need to receive:
The fourth option involves arming personnel already at the school for whom security is not their primary duty - for example, teachers, principals, or custodial staff.
The potential benefits to arming staff members are similar to those described above. An armed staff member has the potential to provide a visible deterrent to a potential active shooter and, in the worst case scenario, take action against an active threat. In addition to these benefits, an armed staff member already on payroll is a potentially less expensive option to schools and school districts with limited resources.
However, such an individual is neither an SRO [School Resource Officer] nor a professional security contractor, and unlike even an armed citizen volunteer, provides security as a secondary responsibility (e.g., if they are a principal or teacher). Therefore, an additional burden may be placed on a school or school district in ensuring that such an individual is highly trained to operate with a weapon in a school environment. It is absolutely imperative that schools consult with subject matter experts, local law enforcement, and other stakeholders in ensuring that any individual carrying a weapon on school property have extensive initial and in-service training throughout their service.
Beyond the financial conflict of interest, as USAToday.com notes, claims that the taskforce is actually independent from the NRA are questionable:
While Hutchinson repeatedly insisted the project was conducted independently of the NRA and without the group's influence - the press conference was organized by the NRA's press office, paid for by the group and the website for the project was www.nraschoolshield.com.
A press release issued by the NRA shortly after the release of the report claimed that the organization “need[s] time to digest the full report” but also said that the NRA was “certain the contributions [Hutchinson] and his team have made will go a long way to making America's schools safer.”