(CNSNews.com) – Vice President Joe Biden supports federal funding to give local school districts “the option of having an armed policeman,” trained “resource officers,” in the public schools to help deter or stop a potential shooting like the one that occurred at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December.
At a Facebook town hall on Tuesday, Biden said the federal government should fund either armed or unarmed police officers in schools, what are called “resource officers,” who are former policemen specially trained to work in the schools and who can be armed or unarmed.
“We found that those school resource officers were of value in, in many schools. We haven't been funding them of late. We think they should be funded,” Biden said in the Facebook town hall meeting from Washington, D.C. “We think we should give the local school district the option of having an armed policeman and an unarmed policeman or, for that matter, if they conclude they’d rather have a counselor in the school, a school psychologist, they could get -- use the money for those purposes.” (Remark at 4:00 minutes in.)
On Thursday, Biden spoke about school safety at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, Conn., which is about 12 miles from the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, where on Dec. 14 a 20-year-old gunman murdered 26 people, 20 of whom were young children.
In his remarks, Biden said, “In the so-called Biden crime bill in '94, there were 100,000 cops, they also included school resource officers and you could apply in a community to have a law enforcement -- a sworn shield not a rent-a-cop, as they say -- in your school, and the reason for that was we found out that the students got to know the law enforcement officer and would start to confide in him. They'd say, you know, by the way, there's going to be a drug deal going down after school, that this is going to -- because kids don't want to have to go to the principal or go to the teachers to say those things.”
“Well, they're not around anymore,” Biden continued. “So, what we did this time was, friends and I are proposing to begin funding school resource officers, but if a community decides it rather would have, instead of a shield in the hallway or in the gymnasium, would rather hire a school psychologist or an extra counselor, they should have the option to do that with the same money we're providing.”
In December, Wayne LaPierre, the CEO of the National Rifle Association, called for armed guards in the nation’s schools to prevent gun violence.
“How have our nation's priorities gotten so far out of order? Think about it. We care about our money, so we protect our banks with armed guards,” LaPierre said on Dec. 21. “American airports, office buildings, power plants, courthouses -- even sports stadiums -- are all protected by armed security. We care about the president, so we protect him with armed Secret Service agents.”
“Members of Congress work in offices surrounded by armed Capitol Police officers,” said LaPierre. “Yet when it comes to the most beloved, innocent and vulnerable members of the American family -- our children -- we as a society leave them utterly defenseless and the monsters and predators of this world know it and exploit it. That must change now!”
On NBC’s Meet the Press on Dec. 30, host David Gregory asked President Barack Obama, “Do we have an armed guard at every school in the country? That`s what the NRA believes. They told me last week that could work.”
Obama said, “You know, I am not going to prejudge the recommendations that are given to me. I am skeptical that the only answer is putting more guns in schools and I think the vast majority of the American people are skeptical that that somehow is going to solve our problem.”
Education Secretary Arne Duncan told the Associated Press in a story published on Jan. 17, “Right now, the overwhelming majority of teachers are saying they'd love more resources. They do not want -- they are speaking very clearly, they are saying --they do not want more guns in schools.”
School resource officers are armed, but function more than just as guards, said Mo Canady, executive director of National Association of School Resource Officers, the Hoover, Ala.-based training organization for school-based law enforcement.
“It’s an armed sworn officer,” Canady told CNSNews.com, in defining school resource officers. “The campus is their beat. They are there to do a lot more than provide protection. A school resource officer engages in law enforcement, but is also involved in education in the classroom on such matters as underage drinking and distracted driving.”
Canady, however, said it is rare that these school resource officers are funded at the federal level.
“School districts that have school resource officers do so in a variety of ways,” he said. “The majority are locally funded. I don’t think a lot are federally funded.”