Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California
By Raju Chebium
Gannett Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - Governors could station National Guard troops at schools to keep students safe under legislation Sen. Barbara Boxer introduced Wednesday, five days after the Connecticut school shooting.
Governors could post the troops at the school doors or use them to do administrative chores to free up police officers and sheriff's deputies to safeguard schools, the California Democrat said. Or Guard troops could be used to keep vigil around the school perimeter to prevent a repeat of the violence at Newtown, Conn., she said.
Under the bill, the federal government would reimburse deployment costs, which governors now must bear almost entirely on their own.
"The slaughter of the innocents must stop," Boxer said at a Capitol Hill news conference. "We have to do more than talk because we've talked before, we've cried before, we've lamented before. So we have to act."
Boxer proposed limiting deployment to 4,000 Guardsmen across the U.S. initially to see if governors make use of the program.
Her proposal is modeled after an existing program under which Guard members do administrative work to free up U.S. Border Patrol agents to get out on in the field to intercept drugs and catch dealers.
The National Guard Association of the United States, a lobbying group, was neutral on Boxer's proposal. Spokesman John Goheen said the organization hasn't seen the legislation.
Boxer's comments came before President Barack Obama announced that Vice President Joe Biden will lead an effort to curb gun violence. Obama said the task force will study potential new gun laws, mental health issues and "a culture that -- all too often -- glorifies guns and violence."
A related bill that Boxer also filed Wednesday would increase federal funding for school safety under the Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS, program administered by the Justice Department.
COPS' Secure our Schools program would see a funding boost from $30 million to $50 million a year under her bill. Boxer proposed upping the federal reimbursement for school safety items like tip lines, security cameras and metal detectors from 50 percent to 80 percent.
In fiscal 2011, the government distributed $13 million in Secure our Schools grants nationwide. Eleven California communities shared $2.75 million.
The recipients included Stockton Unified School District Police Department, which received $54,136. Stockton was the site of a 1989 school shooting in which a gunman used an AK-47 assault weapon to kill five school children, one adult and himself. That rampage prompted California state lawmakers to ban assault weapons in the state.
Boxer urged Congress to adopt her proposals as part of a broader package aimed at curbing gun violence and limiting the spread of assault weapons. Lawmakers should ban assault weapons, outlaw large ammunition clips and close a legal loophole that allow people to buy firearms at gun shows without undergoing background checks, she said.
California Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein, the author of the 1994 assault-weapons ban that expired 10 years later, plans to introduce legislation in the next Congress reviving the ban.
By Raju Chebium, email@example.com
Gannett Washington Bureau