Meet The Man Leading The NRA’s Push For Guns In Schools

December 21, 2012 10:59 a.m.

At the National Rifle Association’s press conference on Friday, the group’s Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre called on Congress to “immediately” put armed police officers in every school, and rejected any suggestion that the nation’s gun laws needed to change in the wake of last Friday’s mass shooting in Newtown, Conn.

At the end of his defiant remarks, LaPierre also announced the NRA’s plan to develop a National School Shield Emergency Response Program, a “multifaceted” education and training program “available to every school in America free of charge.” LaPierre said the NRA had selected former Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R-AR) to lead the effort, and serve as its national director.“School safety is a complex issue with no simple, single solution,” Asa said in his brief remarks. “But I believe trained, qualified, armed security is one key component among many that can provide the first line of deterrence as well as the last line of defense.”

Hutchinson is a former U.S. Attorney, chairman of the Arkansas Republican Party, and congressman from Arkansas. In 2001, after being elected to his third term in Congress, President George W. Bush appointed Hutchinson to be the administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration. In 2003, Hutchinson was tapped to become the first under secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. By 2005, he was out of government, joining Venable, the D.C. law firm, as a senior trial counsel and a partner within firm’s litigation division.

Since then, he’s formed a consulting business, Hutchinson Group, and a law firm, The Asa Hutchinson Law Group, which is based in Arkansas but maintains a D.C. office. Among Hutchinson clients, past and present, listed on the Hutchinson Group’s website are Xe Services, the private security company previously known as Blackwater and now known as Academi. It also lists Science Applications International Corporation, or SAIC, a major federal contractor and a company which in March agreed to pay New York City $500 million for its role in a project that U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara called “corrupted to its core by one of the largest and most brazen frauds ever committed against the City of New York.”

Hutchinson has long been supported by, and a supporter of, the NRA and other gun groups. During an unsuccessful run for Senate in 1986 against Sen. Dale Bumpers (D-AR), Hutchinson was endorsed by the Gun Owners of America of Washington, which called him a “staunch supporter of the right to keep and bear arms.”

According to the Sunlight Foundation, Hutchinson received more than $30,000 in contributions from the gun lobby during his years running for state and federal office. During a brief period in which he was registered as a lobbyist, in 2007, one of Hutchinson’s clients was Point Blank Body Armor, which bills itself as “the world’s leading manufacturer of body armor.”

During Friday’s press conference, LaPierre argued that there would be time “for talk and debate later.”

“This is the time, this is the day for decisive action,” LaPierre said.

In a very different setting, a at a hearing on gun control legislation in May 1999, Hutchinson, then still in Congress, made a different argument.

“One of the reasons I came to Congress, like others, was to address serious national problems,” Hutchinson said, according to a transcript. “The problem of teen violence certainly fits within this category. It is right that this Congress take action reasonably calculated to reduce juvenile violence, increase school safety and to encourage restraint by those who expose our youth to a culture of death and destruction. The question is: How do we do this? First of all, I think it’s important that we recognize that the ready answer is not usually the right answer; that the quick fix leads to quicksand rather than to a solid foundation.”

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