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School police may join gun restrictions

– The Obama administration is considering a $50 million plan to fund hundreds of police officers in public schools, a leading Democratic senator said, part of a broad gun violence agenda that is likely to include universal background checks and a ban on high-capacity ammunition clips.

The school safety initiative would make federal dollars available to schools that want to hire police officers and install surveillance equipment, although it is not nearly as far-ranging as the National Rifle Association’s proposal for armed guards in every U.S. school.

The idea is gaining currency among some Democratic lawmakers, who see it as a potential area of common ground with Republicans who otherwise oppose stricter restrictions on firearms. Sen. Barbara Boxer, a liberal Democrat from California, said she presented the plan to Vice President Biden and that he was “very, very interested” and may include it in the policy recommendations he makes to President Obama.

“If a school district wants to have a community policing presence, I think it’s very important they have it,” Boxer said in an interview Thursday. “If they want uniformed officers, they can do it. If they want plainclothes officers, they can do it.”

But hope of finding an accord over gun laws dimmed considerably Thursday after the NRA lashed out publicly against what it called the administration’s “agenda to attack the Second Amendment” after meeting with Biden and senior White House officials.

Biden plans to present recommendations from the administration’s working group on gun violence to Obama next Tuesday. The vice president said Thursday that he sees an emerging consensus around “universal background checks” for all gun buyers and a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines. Obama, meanwhile, has said he also supports a ban on assault weapons.

The gun industry has long opposed these restrictions, and the NRA said after its 95-minute White House meeting that it would have nothing more to do with Biden’s task force, foreshadowing a partisan and emotionally charged fight over gun control.

“It is unfortunate that this administration continues to insist on pushing failed solutions to our nation’s most pressing problems,” the NRA said in a statement. “We will not allow law-abiding gun owners to be blamed for the acts of criminals and madmen.”

Biden already has spoken with law enforcement leaders, gun violence victims and gun-safety groups and has had conference calls with governors and other state and local elected officials of both parties.

Biden said that, going into Thursday’s meetings, his task force heard repeatedly about the need to strengthen background checks to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. He said the proposals would go beyond closing a loophole that exempts some private firearms sales, such as transactions at gun shows, from background checks.

“There is an emerging set of recommendations – not coming from me but coming from the groups we’ve met,” Biden said. “There is a surprising, so far, a surprising recurrence of suggestions that we have universal background checks.”

These recommendations were not only about “closing the gun-show loophole,” he said, “but total universal background checks, including private sales.”

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