A reporter for "Mother Jones" took a close look at the NRA-funded plan for school safety and found mistakes--and flat-out inventions.
The NRA is amping up the gun control debate a week before Congress plans to reconvene to consider gun legislation on the Senate floor. In a NRA-funded report outlined by former Republican Arkansas Congressman Asa Hutchinson, its main component recommended using federal money to place armed guards in every school in America, citing specific evidence that turned out to be distorted or completely false.
decided to investigate the reliability of the NRA-sponsored report. A senior editor, Mark Follman, uncovered several blunders in the NRA plan for securing schools from shooters. The first error Follman found (on page 69 of the report) was its reference to a “16-year-old attacker that killed six people hiding in a locked classroom in Hastings Middle School in Minnesota by shooting and subsequently stepping through a tempered glass window that ran vertically alongside the classroom door.”
If you’ve never heard of this attack, there’s a good reason: It never happened. There was an incident in 2010 involving an eighth-grade student who brandished a handgun at teachers and students in at least two Hastings Middle School classrooms but fired no shots.
The report recommended securing buildings by getting rid of classroom windows so that attackers would have less access into a school, and cited the Minnesota Hastings Middle School as evidence.
The NRA report said that the teenage attacker shot and then stepped “through a tempered glass window that ran vertically alongside the classroom door.” In actuality, the student used the gun to break a window pane, put his arm through the opening and unlocked the door to escape.
The second oversight from the report was its mention of the massacre at Columbine High School in 1999.
“Although the officer engaged in brief gunfire with the two murderers, which likely saved lives, the officer remained outside the building caring for a wounded student as the killers proceeded inside.”
By inferring that the armed security officer’s gunfire “likely saved several lives,” the report indicates that there are specific numbers or evidence to back up that claim. Instead, the report links to a citation to an op-ed from Daniel Foster, a conservative pundit.
The last instance the report cites is how an armed assistant principal at Pearl High School in Mississippi in 1997 disarmed a shooter who killed two students and wounded seven others at the high school. The educator, Joel Myrick, “disarmed him using a .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol that he retrieved from his truck.” But Follman points out that the Myrick was also an Army reservist and that the shooting was already over when he disarmed the shooter.
Follman, joining MSNBC’s The Last Word Wednesday, said he wasn’t surprised to find multiple errors in the NRA’s report. ”They play to fear and to fantasy to try to sell that agenda. So they’re willing to twist the facts or just use completely unreal facts–as we see them citing that mass shooting that never happened in Minnesota.”
On Tuesday, MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell asked the National School Shield Task Force’s director, Asa Hutchinson, about the credibility of the study being submitted for evaluation as an independent report. At a press conference at the National Press Club Tuesday morning, Hutchinson stressed how the report maintained “full independence” from the NRA. Hutchinson reiterated the same point on The Last Word Tuesday, saying that although he was “employed by the NRA,” he was “not with the NRA” nor was he “a spokesman for the NRA,” despite the NRA shelling out more than $1 million to conduct the 225-page study.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, which represents nearly 1.5 million teachers and educators, stressed that the NRA proposal would in no way increase school safety. “Today’s NRA proposal is a cruel hoax that will fail to keep our children and schools safe. It is simply designed to assist gun manufacturers.”
Also rejecting the recommendation to amp up school security by training staff members to use weapons and by placing armed guards in every school was Debbie Leidlein, chairwoman of the Newtown Board of Education. “It can become a dangerous situation to have any individuals outside of those who have police training to be carrying weapons around children.”
Watch O’Donnell’s interview with Asa Hutchinson from Tuesday.