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US confronts two views on post-Newtown gun control

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Putting trained armed guards in US schools would help protect students from rogue gunmen, a task force launched by lobby group the National Rifle Association after the Newtown massacre said Tuesday.

President Barack Obama's administration and a coalition of pressure groups are fighting for new laws to limit firearm ownership following the latest spree killings, but groups like the NRA are fighting back with plans of their own.

Releasing a 225-page report in Washington, the National School Shield program echoed the NRA's position that more guns in the right hands, rather than tougher gun laws, is the best recipe for confronting gun violence.

"The specific finding is that the presence of an armed security personnel in a school adds a layer of security and diminishes response time that is beneficial to overall security," said task force chief Asa Hutchinson.

"We recognize that the decision is locally made. Some school districts decide not to go that direction," added Hutchinson, a former Republican congressman and Drug Enforcement Administration chief.

"We want to make sure our resources are available whenever decision is made. I come from a rural state. The smaller school districts struggle. This is a key tool to provide more options for school security and safety."

The NRA launched the National School Shield initiative in the wake of the December 14 killing of 20 young children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in affluent Newtown, Connecticut.

The gunman, Adam Lanza, 20, who had earlier shot and killed his own mother, cut down his victims with a semi-automatic assault rifle in a matter of minutes before turning a handgun on himself, investigators say.

Obama will focus on gun control on Wednesday when he travels to Denver, Colorado, not far from the cinema where a gunman killed 12 people at a Batman movie premiere on July 20 last year.

The Democratic president is also slated to be in Connecticut on Monday, after a bipartisan legislative task force there agreed a major overhaul of the New England state's already stringent gun laws.

If enacted, Connecticut would add more than 100 types of guns onto its list of banned assault weapons, limit to 10 rounds the legal size of ammunition clips and impose background checks for all weapons sales.

Last Thursday, Obama made an impassioned plea for gun reform, infuriated by the notion that fading memories of the Newtown massacre three months ago were undercutting a push for new laws.

"What we're proposing is not radical, it's not taking away anybody's gun rights," said Obama, whose proposal for thorough background checks on all firearm purchases is running into resistance on Capitol Hill.

Public opinion polls indicate that Americans' support for gun laws are slipping back to pre-Newtown levels -- while the small Georgia town of Nelson adopted a bylaw Monday making gun ownership mandatory for its 1,300 residents.

"Our government at the moment, they want to take as much away from us as they can," Edith Portillo, a town council member, told Atlanta television station WXIA.

Tuesday's report from the National School Shield task force including eight recommendations ranging from better door locks to a 40- to 60-hour training program for armed school guard volunteers.

It also proposed that legislators in the 50 American states amend existing laws in order to allow school personnel to carry firearms.

The NRA lobbies vigorously against any gun control initiative, in a country with more than 30,000 gun-related fatalities a year and a Constitution that guarantees all citizens the right "to keep and bear arms."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130402/us-confronts-two-views-post-newtown-gun-control