The deliberately outrageous idea of arming classroom teachers is nothing more than a distraction, a ploy by the gun lobby to buy time for passions to cool. Don’t get sidetracked. Keep the focus where it belongs – on keeping military-style assault rifles out of civilian hands.
The National Rifle Association and its vassals in the Republican Party would like you to exhaust your outrage on a possibility that is, from the start, impossible. Picture one of your grade-school or high-school classrooms. Imagine a loaded gun in there somewhere. Even on an average day, without an active shooter stalking the halls, the question isn’t what could go wrong. It’s how many dead or wounded.
President Donald Trump has touted the idea, but he tipped the NRA-GOP hand Saturday with a tweet: “Armed Educators (and trusted people who work within a school) love our students and will protect them. Very smart people. Must be firearms adept & have annual training. Should get yearly bonus. Shootings will not happen again – a big & very inexpensive deterrent. Up to States.”
“Up to States” means abdicating the federal government’s responsibility and urging state legislatures to waste time and effort debating whether to mandate that instruments of death be introduced to classrooms. Are parents going to be confident that the gun is securely locked away and no student will ever get his hands on it? That in an emergency the teacher would know how to use it? That an assailant wouldn’t simply shoot the teacher first?
According to The New York Times, police officers in the nation’s largest city – men and women who are highly trained and periodically tested for firearms proficiency – hit their targets only one-third of the time. During actual gunfights, the paper reported, officers’ accuracy drops as low as 13 percent. The idea that teachers would somehow do any better is ludicrous, as is the idea that most teachers and their powerful unions would agree to such a horribly bad idea.
The fact that the GOP and the gun lobby are pushing this nonstarter is proof of how worried they are that the Parkland massacre has the potential to provoke real change. It’s not so much that Republicans would enact sensible gun control, but that voters might replace them with Democrats who will.
That is why NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre spent much of a foaming-at-the-mouth speech Thursday making the insane claim that Democrats, if elected, will impose some kind of socialist tyranny. “You should be anxious and you should be frightened,” he warned at the annual meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference. Please, oh please, he wants you to be frightened.
“If they seize power, if these so-called European socialists take over the House and the Senate and, God forbid, they get the White House again, our American freedoms could be lost and our country will be changed forever,” LaPierre implored. “The first to go will be the Second Amendment.” LaPierre charged that Democrats “want more restrictions on the law-abiding,” which is an odd way to describe school shooters.
The unhinged LaPierre wildly lobbed every cultural and racial grenade he could get his hands on. He railed against Black Lives Matter, the FBI, George Soros, college professors – and the media. Because, I guess, when a young man with an AR-15 walks into a high school and kills 17 students and faculty members, we write about it.
NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch, in her CPAC speech, was equally shrill and desperate. “Many in legacy media love mass shootings,” she said, despicably. “Crying white mothers are ratings gold to you.”
All this squealing can only mean that the NRA and Republicans think they’re in trouble. The usual playbook for dodging an actual debate about gun control isn’t working.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who has an A-plus rating from the NRA, has come out in favor of raising the minimum age for gun purchases from 18 to 21. Some other Republicans agree. That would be one tiny step in a long journey toward sanity, but the NRA’s strategy is never to give an inch. It would be a disaster for the gun lobby if Republicans began heeding public opinion on guns – which, according to a new USA Today poll, favors an assault weapons ban by 2-to-1.
With the Parkland students continuing to speak and inspire, could common-sense gun control be the issue that turns expected Democratic gains this November into a historic wave? That’s up to you. Ignore all distractions, and keep your eyes on the prize.
Eugene Robinson’s email address is email@example.com.