Huffpost Politics

Asa Hutchinson On Background Checks: 'I'm Open' (VIDEO)

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Former Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark.), director of the National Rifle Association-funded National School Shield Task Force, told CNN's Wolf Blitzer he's "open to expanding background checks" on Tuesday.

"You can do it within a way that does not infringe upon an individual, and make it hard for an individual to transfer to a friend or a neighbor or somebody... and have a casual sale," Hutchinson said. "We don't want to infringe upon those rights, either."

While Hutchinson's comments express support for background checks, he stopped far short of endorsing the type of universal background checks for all gun sales that have been proposed in Senate legislation. Sen. Chuck Schumer's (D-N.Y.) bill would cover nearly all gun sales, as well as potentially any "gift, loan, return from pawn or consignment, or other disposition" of a gun.

By allowing a loophole for "casual sales," which Hutchinson defined on CNN as between "friends and neighbors," he essentially rejected Schumer's proposal, which has far more stringent controls on who can transfer a gun to someone else without a background check conducted by the NICS system.

"I'm more focused on the safety and protecting the kids in the school," Hutchinson said. "I think our initiative will do that, more than going down this path of passing stricter laws, that somehow we pat ourselves on the back and [think] we've done something for safety when we haven't."

The NRA responded to Hutchinson's comments, telling CNN the former congressman was "not speaking for the NRA."

"He meant expanding it to include more people into the national instant check system," the NRA statement said, according to CNN.

Earlier on Tuesday, Hutchinson released a 225-page report on school safety funded by the NRA that recommended properly trained armed employees to provide "an important layer of security in schools." HuffPost's Christina Wilkie reports:

The report was prepared by a 12-person task force, called the School Shield Program, led by Hutchinson. At Tuesday's press conference, he stated that its findings were independent of the nation's largest gun lobby.

"Teachers should teach, but if there is personnel that has interest and is willing to go through 40 to 60 hours of [firearms] training, then schools should be willing to [arm them]," Hutchinson said. He added that the report found that "local school authorities are in the best position" to determine their own school security measures, "specifically whether an armed security guard is necessary and supported by the education and citizen community."

The task force recommended that schools designate willing staff to be armed and trained, and it proposed a model training program, 40-60 hours per person, at what Hutchinson said would be a cost of about $800 to $1,000 per trained employee. Armed school personnel, called school resource officers, would also be required to undergo a "background investigation, testing, and [have] relevant experience."

The committee didn't recommend any specific kind of firearm for school security, Hutchinson said, adding, "Everything from a sidearm, to a shotgun, to an AR-15" would work.

The task force also suggested that states loosen current legal restrictions on who can carry a firearm on school property. Many states currently prohibit anyone but a law enforcement officer from possessing guns in a school.

Other recommendations included creating threat assessment teams at schools, better coordinating state and federal funding for school security, and offering an online assessment tool, so that administrators can evaluate their schools' potential security gaps.

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