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NRA School Plan Seen as ‘Sad’

Upper Valley Folks Find Little to Support

David Isom was standing outside of Cole Hall, a large auditorium at Northern Illinois University, when he heard gunshots.

It was February 2008. A gunman had entered the lecture hall during a class and opened fire, eventually killing five people and then himself. Isom, now a resident of White River Junction, remembered a fully armed police force on campus at the time, one that had no idea anything was going wrong until the shooting began.

So, for Isom, the National Rifle Association’s claim that schools would benefit by having armed guards walking the halls doesn’t fully add up.

“I think that the intent is (good),” Isom said. “But in practice I don’t think it’s going to have much of an effect.”

On Friday, NRA Vice President Wayne LaPierre delivered a speech advocating for people with histories of positive firearm use — past and present police officers and members of the military, for instance — to be installed in schools.

The desire for more firepower in schools came a week after a gunman opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., killing 26 people, including 20 students, before shooting himself.

“I call on Congress today to act immediately, to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every school, and to do it now, to make sure that blanket of safety is in place when our children return to school in January,” LaPierre said.

Yesterday, some residents of the Upper Valley and beyond saw that as going too far, even if they said changes are important on some level.

“I think it’s really sad if our society has come to the point where that is necessary,” said Dorothy Mullaney, of Enfield, a neonatal nurse at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

Ultimately, she said, “there needs to be a multifaceted approach” to solving an issue that extends past guns into mental health and elsewhere. Some amount of gun control is necessary, she said, but there’s more to take on.

Nolan Richard, 23, was more blunt.

“Putting more guns in schools makes no sense,” he said.

Richard was at the Watson Dog Park along Route 14 in Hartford yesterday with his family, who came down from Burlington to visit other family members. He, too, was visiting, from his home in Southbury, Conn., which is just 10 miles from Newtown, Conn.

Both he and his father, Glen Richard, gave a thumbs down when asked about their reaction to LaPierre’s speech.

Glen Richard said that schools without armed guards are like public parks without armed guards, or movie theaters without armed guards. If guns find their way into schools, he said, the next step might be to put guns in other public places.

“Can you imagine what it would be like with guns everywhere?” he said.

His son added that a fire fight between an armed guard and a shooter probably wouldn’t go over particularly cleanly, and the potential violence could find its way to innocents.

But not everyone is against the idea of injecting more guns into schools. In an interview earlier this week, Cornish resident Curt Wyman, who has a shooting range, said that much of Newtown’s carnage could have been avoided if the principal and teachers had been armed.

“When was the last time you heard a police station had somebody attack it?” he asked. “They’re all armed in there.

“I’m very devastated that this happened to the kids,” Wyman added. “You don’t go out and do this to kids. There’s no logic to it whatsoever.”

In LaPierre’s speech, during which he tapped Asa Hutchinson, a former Arkansas congressman, to lead a task force designed to make schools safer for children, he pointed to violent video games and entertainment as one of the root causes of the problem, singling out controversy-engendering games such as “Mortal Combat” and “Grand Theft Auto” plus an online game called “Kindergarten Killer.”

He also called the video game industry a “callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry.”

Mullaney agreed that excessive video game violence is part of the problem, but not the only one to deal with.

Others disagreed entirely.

“I think the video game argument is pretty silly,” said Isom, who said that good parenting and better education on firearms trump the perceived damage that violent games cause.

“Guns are OK,” he said, “but you don’t need to be crazy about it.”

Jon Wolper can be reached at jwolper@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.