The National Rifle Association’s free program to assess school security measures in the wake of high-profile mass shootings is allegedly no more than a fundraising front for the pro-gun organization, which relentlessly promoted the program through its now defunct online broadcast platform, NRATV.
Developed after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, the NRA’s National School Shield Emergency Response Program supposedly offers expertise “from armed security to building design and access control to information technology to student and teacher training” for “every school that wants it.” Following the security and threat assessment, the school can apply for a School Shields grant to implement the recommendations, which sometimes include arming teachers and school staff. The entire program is based on donations. The NRA solicits these donations on a website branded for the initiative, although a disclosure linked to on the donation page states a more general purpose for any gifts, indicating at that “contributions raised will be used to advance the mission of the NRA.”
According to a December 5 Daily Beast article, the NRA’s former advertising firm Ackerman McQueen is claiming the organization “artificially boosted their fundraising numbers by raising money for its School Shield program while paying out only a small number of actual grants.” Ackerman McQueen, which has been locked in multiple multi-million dollar lawsuits with the NRA, alleges in a November counterclaim that the pro-gun group “used School Shield as a ‘shell’ program” that it “never had any intention or meaningful ability to execute.” Ackerman McQueen claims the NRA gave a “paltry” five grants between 2012 and 2014, totaling up to only $200,000.
In the year before it shut down, NRATV -- which Ackerman McQueen produced -- relentlessly promoted this alleged “shell” program.
During the July 13, 2018, edition of the NRATV show Stinchfield, host Grant Stinchfield announced an NRATV investigation into “whether or not your child’s school has a safety plan in place.” Stinchfield claimed that “all 50 states will be contacted. ... We’ve already had reporters contacting school districts across the country to see if their plans are in place. If they are not in place, we will expose them to make sure that they put plans in place to keep kids safe, and if they are doing a good job, we will profile them.” Stinchfield then plugged the NRA School Shield program, which he said “has been doing this now for years.”
Stinchfield continued to insist the NRA “is here to help schools protect students,” that many school districts are putting teachers “through very intense training” after realizing that they would possibly have to confront an armed gunman, and that viewers should “call NRA School Shield, recruit them, let them help you harden your kids’ school.”
On the one-year anniversary of the Parkland school shooting, former NRA spokesperson and NRATV host Dana Loesch said she “and others at NRA have pushed hard for schools -- school districts to use the services of NRA School Shields” before insisting, “This program works.”
Stinchfield used the one-year anniversary of the Parkland shooting to complain the “anti-gun zealots” are trying to block School Shield “simply because they hate guns,” and implied the program could prevent the next Parkland:
GRANT STINCHFIELD (HOST): One year after the Parkland massacre, I can declare with certainty it was the most preventable mass shooting in American history. Today, my heart goes out to every single person affected by it. And to honor the victims, I pledge to continue my and the NRA’s quest to push for all schools to be safe schools. We learned so many lessons from the mass shooting in Broward County. And if we act on those lessons, our children will be safer for it. The problem is, the anti-gun zealots who run the anti-gun lobbying groups are trying to block every move the NRA and NRA School Shield makes simply because they hate guns and our organization. I don’t care what they call us. They can’t preach to the media that we’re irrelevant. We aren’t, and I know this because of the work we are getting done. In the memory of every person shot at Parkland, at Santa Fe, or Columbine, or Newtown, in their memory, many kids are safer as more and more schools are looking inward to expose flaws so they can be corrected. Still it is true, too many more are not any safer. But look at what Florida did. It now mandates each school have an armed officer present. That is an amazing piece of legislation the NRA worked hard to get passed.
In honor of the 17 lives lost one year ago, I am calling on every school principal, every parent, every cop who goes into a school, look hard at your security. Expose the flaws and fix them. Of course NRA School Shield can help. We do it for free. No matter who does it though, it must be done. Do not let your school be the next Parkland.
The claim that School Shield was merely a fundraising front is just the latest allegation of impropriety and financial mismanagement to come out of the multiple lawsuits Ackerman McQueen and the NRA are currently involved in. While the NRA’s former advertising agency says it is attempting to blow the whistle about the pro-gun groups cronyism, it’s important to remember that Ackerman McQueen produced NRATV as well as its messaging around this “shell” program.