The NRA’s executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, has been the subject of Beltway ire for his proposal to put police officers in schools across the country; the White House, lawmakers, and political analysts on both sides of the aisle have summarily denounced him. Rewind just 13 years, though, and many of these lawmakers were cheering a proposal that bears a remarkable resemblance to the one set forth by the NRA: President Clinton’s “COPS in Schools” program.
In October 1998, Clinton announced the $60 million grant program, which was housed in the Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS). “This initiative provides communities with a new tool to tackle crime and violence in our schools,” he said. According to the Justice Department, the program was intended to help police officers “engage in community policing in and around primary and secondary schools,” and the government spent over $753 million to hire more than 6,500 school police officers before the COPS in Schools program was cut in 2005.
In the wake of the April 1999 shootings at Columbine High School, Clinton intensified his efforts in behalf of the program and used the first anniversary of the Columbine shooting to announce additional funding. In his weekly radio address on April 16, 2000, Clinton said, “In our national struggle against youth violence, we must not fail our children.” He continued, “Already, [COPS in Schools] has placed 2,200 officers in more than 1,000 communities across our nation, where they are heightening school safety as well as coaching sports and acting as mentors and mediators for kids in need.”