NRA Ad Was Wrong, Sidwell Friends Does Not Have Armed Guards

The National Rifle Association came under a lot of criticism earlier this week for releasing an ad in which they referred to the President as an “elitist hypocrite” for sending his daughter’s to a school that had armed security while denying that security to America’s schoolchildren. Well it turns out that Sidwell Friends, the school that Malia and Sasha Obama attend, doesn’t have armed security at all:

What about the claim that Sidwell Friends has 11 armed guards, which some Web sites have depicted with images of armed police with binoculars?

This is based on the fact that the online directory for Sidwell Friends lists 11 people as working in the Security Department. Five are listed as “special police officer,” while two are listed as “on call special police officer,” which presumably means they do not work full-time. The directory also lists two weekend shift supervisors, one security officer and the chief of security.

Under the District of Columbia General Order 308.7, a special police officer is a private commissioned police officer with arrest powers in the area that he or she protects. They may also be authorized to bear firearms — but it is not required. Security officers, by contrast, cannot carry firearms and in effect are watchmen. So five to seven security personnel in theory could be licensed to carry firearms.

But we spoke to parents who said they had never seen a guard on campus with a weapon. And Ellis Turner, associate head of Sidwell Friends, told us emphatically: “Sidwell Friends security officers do not carry guns.” (Note: this includes those listed as special police officers.)

Sidwell Friends, by the way, has two distinct campuses, a lower school in Bethesda and a middle and upper schools in Washington. So given shift rotations and three different schools, it appears that the 11 “armed guards” is really just one or two unarmed guards per school at a time.

The Obama daughters are, of course, protected by Secret Service details as required by Federal Law, but that is very different from armed private school security. So, the NRA is wrong to claim that the President’s daughters go to a school with armed security. Because they don’t.

FILED UNDER: Guns and Gun Control, US Politics, , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Darn facts! See, they mess things up for _everybody_.

  2. Markey says:

    NRA facts are Republican facts, and both are good as gold in Fox world..

  3. anjin-san says:

    So, the NRA is wrong willfully lying to claim that the President’s daughters go to a school with armed security.


  4. David says:

    I’ve been waiting for you or one of the other posters to come back to this. The NRA can say that they were not involving the Obama children in a political attack, but when you issue an ad that is false, that mentions the children of the president, and, based on the actual facts, criticizes the President’s children for having secret service protection, they have crossed a big huge line.

    The NRA has engaged in blatant disregard for the facts and should issue an apology to the President and his family (for that matter to all members of any presidential family). I’m not holding my breath, and just expect them to double down.

  5. Argon says:

    No shite! It’s a Quaker school.

  6. bill says:

    a logic question;
    do the presidents kids have armed security? yes
    do they go to sidwell? yes.
    do the armed security agents protect them at sidwell? yes
    does sidwell have armed security? No….really?

  7. C. Clavin says:

    Waiting for the NRA retraction….
    Not to mention commenters like JKB…

  8. David says:

    @bill: What is it about the concept that the school does not have an armed security force that confuses you? And while we do not know what the current security arrangements for the Obama children are (the secret service does not comment on security arrangements) the secret service worked with the school to minimize any impact on the school or its rules when Chelsea Clinton went there. But, to be clear, the secret service is there for one thing only, to protect their charges and are not there to be armed security for the school.

    The NRA put out a bad ad. They were either grossly negligent in determining the facts or were willfully lying to the American public to try and score political points and using the President’s children to do it.

  9. Franklin says:

    The NRA might think about hiring a publicity manager. Seriously, they just keep making themselves look more and more stupid.

  10. OzarkHillbilly says:


    Seriously, they just keep making themselves look more and more stupid.

    Is that even possible?

  11. stonetools says:

    the NRA is wrong

    Pro tip: Go ahead and create a macro right now, Doug. You’ll save yourself a lot of typing over the next year.

  12. Gustopher says:

    I’m not sure which bothers me more: the NRA bringing the Obama kids into this debate in the first place by claiming the school has armed guards, or people pointing out that the school doesn’t have armed guards and inadvertently implying that the kids are easier targets.

    I hope the Secret Service beefs up the protection for the kids until this entire incident is a distant memory.

  13. C. Clavin says:


  14. bk says:

    Doug Mataconis says:
    Wednesday, January 16, 2013 at 09:08


    Sidwell Friends has a private security force on campus unconnected to the Secret Service. Indeed, it pre-dated the Obama daughters attendance at the school. This is obviously what they are referring to.

  15. bill says:

    @David: actually you don’t know that the school has no armed guards per se, just because they ( an expensive, private school) replied so a week later has little to do with the truth/reality.
    and back to the “logic question”- they do as long as obamas kids are there. is that concept too difficult?

  16. bk says:


    actually you don’t know that the school has no armed guards per se, just because they ( an expensive, private school) replied so a week later has little to do with the truth/reality.

    So, what you are saying is that the school is lying, right?

  17. David says:

    @bill: It’s a Quaker school. That would be like a catholic school handing out condoms and having an abortion clinic on site. The NRA was wrong, their ad is wrong, Trying to shoe horn their ad into reality instead of the falsehoods found in the ad is just sad.

  18. Nikki says:
  19. Peter says:

    Arguing over whether the school has armed security is an exercise in hair-splitting. Insofar as the school does not employ any armed security guards, the NRA ad is wrong. As a practical matter, however, there are armed Secret Service agents on campus whenever one or both of the Obama daughters is attending school, so in that technical sense the ad is correct.

  20. BJ Clinton says:

    @John Peabody: What facts are you referring to? Is it factual to report that there aren’t armed special police officers based on interviews of a few parents who claim to never have seen any? Or based on the school’s representative assertion that “Sidwell Friends security officers do not carry guns”? I hope they don’t, because it would be illegal for security officers to carry guns when they are not licensed to do so. That now leaves us with the lone “fact” apparently added by the author in parenthesis that the representative’s use of the term “security guards” was somehow meant to be all inclusive of the higher qualified, and licensed “special police officers” who are authorized to carry guns.

  21. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @bill: Using your logic, every mall, restaurant, gas station, private home, government building, road, vehicle, airspace, public restroom, park, university, hospital, and Six Flags has armed guards since, if and when the Obama children show up at that location, there will be armed guards.

  22. bill says:

    @bk: to borrow terminology from the story below this one;
    “technically” they do have armed security- by proxy. and being a private school for wealthy/important people- they aren’t really going to divulge their security measures. Remember, the wealthy live differently than us, and they’re “special”.
    As grommit notes above, yes .

  23. Geek, Esq. says:

    The NRA is run by crazy liars. We already knew that. Too bad the residents of Dumbfuckistan (e.g. rural America) don’t realize it.

  24. anjin-san says:

    Remember, the wealthy live differently than us, and they’re “special”.

    Just the same as it’s always been. It seems to bother you – can you direct us to some of the comments you made in support of the occupy movement?

  25. anjin-san says:


    I’m curious, do you also resent the privileged childhood of Mitt Romney? His children’s? Or is is just black children getting privileges you never had that raises your blood pressure?

  26. Matt says:


    See link to employment to Sidwell Friends : Employment
    Special Police Officer

    Posted: August 10, 2012

    Sidwell Friends School, a coeducational Quaker day school located in the Tenleytown area of Washington, DC, is seeking a full-time Special Police Officer.

    The ideal candidate will have above average computer skills and knowledge to assist security officers with security systems, reports on line, access control systems, video retention, camera surveillance and training of officers on maximum computer use for daily activities.

    Applicants must have a current SPO license; have the ability to pass criminal background checks & drug/alcohol testing. The ideal candidate will have the ability to write clear concise reports, prepare preliminary investigative reports, as well as interview witnesses, suspects & victims.

    This is a full-time hourly position which include free parking, lunch and an attractive benefits package, with retirement plan inclusive of employer match.

  27. Matt says:


    In the District of Columbia, only police officers and members of the military (in the course of their duties only) can lawfully carry loaded firearms. Thus, security personnel who work in an armed capacity must be commissioned as District of Columbia Special Police Officers in order to carry a weapon (this law does not apply on federal property, so security personnel who work in federal buildings do not have to become DC SPO’s, although their guns may not leave their building under any circumstances).