Sandy Hook Dad Backs NRA's School-Safety Plan

By Penny Starr | April 2, 2013 | 2:42 PM EDT

Mark Mattioli, whose son James was killed at the Sandy Hook Elementary School last year, said he hopes recommendations by security experts can help make U.S. schools safer. ( Starr)

( -- Mark Mattioli, whose 6-year-old-son James was killed last year during the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, said politics should not interfere with finding solutions to making America’s schools safer.

Speaking at the National Press Club on Tuesday where a report was released recommending strategies for improving school safety nationwide, including armed security personnel, Mattioli said “politics need to sort of be set aside” to find “real solutions.”

“This is a comprehensive program,” Mattioli said, in reference to the report, The National School Shield: Report of the National School shield Task Force. (National School Shield Report.pdf)    “I applaud everyone for their input.”

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“I also want to say that I think politics need to sort of be set aside here, and I hope this doesn’t lead to name-calling but rather this is recommendations for solutions – real solutions that will make our kids safer, and that’s what we need,” Mattioli said.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) funded the independent task force, made up of security and law enforcement experts, which produced the report.

Asa Hutchinson, former Republican congressman from Arkansas, a Drug Enforcement Administration administrator, and Department of Homeland Security undersecretary in the George W. Bush administration, is chairman of the task force.

Other members of the task force include security experts, with personnel from the military, intelligence, and government security and law enforcement, including the Secret Service, the DHS and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

Hutchinson said Tuesday’s event was strictly to unveil the task force’s recommendations and that the NRA would respond separately to the report. (National School Shield Report.pdf)

Recommendations include comprehensive training of armed personnel in schools; reformation of laws in states that prohibit armed personnel in schools; cooperation between school security and local law enforcement; the inclusion of safety as part of a comprehensive education strategy; funding sources; and making the task force an umbrella organization that supports nationwide school safety policies.

Hutchinson noted that the report is not a mandate but only includes recommendations because each school district will ultimately make its own decisions on school safety.

During the question-and-answer period, reporters asked questions about gun control legislation, background checks, high-capacity gun magazines and gun control legislation being debated in the Senate.

Hutchinson said firearms were not the focus of the task force.

“While the debate goes on, we’re trying to something about school safety,” Hutchinson said.