The Newtown massacre has had a profound ripple effect nationwide, with administrators, lawmakers, lobbyists, and parents often coming to sharply different conclusions about what new security measures, if any, to take, and whether guns should be allowed inside school buildings, reports The Trace. The highest-profile, and most influential, advocate for arming school staff and security guards has been the National Rifle Association. A week after Sandy Hook, Wayne LaPierre, the gun group’s CEO, called on authorities to “erect a cordon of protection around our kids.” Stationing “qualified” armed guards in every school, he said, was the first step they should take.
The NRA and its allies in state legislatures have pushed schools to allow teachers, staff, and even parents to carry guns into classrooms, under the rationale that even the most responsive law enforcement can’t always act quickly enough to save lives. Some officials have continued to maintain that the risk of accident or a misplaced weapon falling into the wrong hands outweighs the odds that any individual school will be targeted by a mass shooter. That states and districts have a say over whether to allow guns in schools is a function of the decentralized nature of the U.S. education system, and of a federal law governing the carrying of firearms in schools — the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990— that comes with significant caveats. Under the act, signed into law by President George H.W. Bush, guns are banned from school property. Some states allow schools, or districts, the freedom to grant exemptions. California passed a true ban in October, but the rules are looser in many states, meaning that local school boards and superintendents have wide discretion to set their own policies.