The National Rifle Association broke its weeklong silence following the horrific shooting of 26 people at a school in Newtown, Conn., and called for a surge of gun-carrying "good guys" around American schools.
Not a great idea, responded the man charged with security on Novato's public school campuses.
"All those efforts and resources could be used for mental health issues," said Bill Welch, who runs North Bay Security Group.
NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre called for a new kind of American domestic security revolving around armed civilians, arguing that "the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."
"We care about our president, so we protect him with armed Secret Service agents," LaPierre said. "Members of Congress work in offices surrounded by Capitol Police officers. Yet, when it comes to our most beloved, innocent, and vulnerable members of the American family, our children, we as a society leave them every day utterly defenseless, and the monsters and the predators of the world know it, and exploit it."
Welch said there's no way anyone can prevent a heavily-armed person from walking onto a campus because the entire perimeter of a school cannot be covered at all times. He said adding a security guard with a handgun would guarantee nothing at all. A guard with a 9mm or .40 caliber pistol going up against a deranged person with a semi-automatic assault weapon would not be a good situation.
"You don't bring a knife to a gunfight," Welch said. "We can't have police officers walking around on school campuses with high-powered guns tucked into their shirts."
Money for more counseling and psychological staff would be better spent than having armed guards, he said.
"Parents should know that Novato has tons of emotional support and psychological support for troubled kids in our school district," he said. "If we can direct more resources to our mental health system, I think we'd be better off."
NUSD Communications Director Leslie Benjamin said a team of six psychologists work for the district and have played important roles on a daily basis plus during traumas such as the violent off-campus deaths of students Hailey Ratliff, Isaac Brott and Melody Osheroff.
LaPierre's speech was a call to NRA supporters to mobilize around a new vision of American domestic security, at a time when voices for gun control are steadily rising. On Friday morning before the press conference, President Obama released a video (attached) citing a petition by hundreds of Americans calling for swift action.
At the grassroots level, groups like Newtown United, a group of Newtown neighbors, are working to address major issues related to the tragedy, including gun control, violent media, mental health and legislation.
In stark contrast, LaPierre called for a great mobilization of gun-carrying "good guys," a term he used repeatedly but did not define, who could be more present and respond more quickly than police.
"If we truly cherish our kids, more than our money, more than our celebrities, more than our sports stadiums, we must give them the greatest level of protection possible," LaPierre said. "And that security is only available with properly trained, armed 'good guys.'"
LaPierre, who was interrupted twice by protesters who held signs in front of TV cameras, made a direct call for local action.
"I call on every parent. I call on every teacher. I call on every school administrator, every law enforcement officer in this country, to join with us and help create a national schools shield safety program to protect our children with the only positive line of defense that’s tested and proven to work," he said.
In his speech, LaPierre also accused the media of selling "violence against its own people" through violent video games, music videos and "blood-soaked" films. He did not take questions from reporters, and did not acknowledge the protesters.
Gavin Newsom, California's lieutenant governor and a Marin County native, said this via Twitter on Friday morning: "Columbine had an armed deputy sheriff, yet 13 people still died. Tell the NRA this is not the answer."
— Novato Patch's Brent Ainsworth and Patch writers on national issues contributed to this story.