If you strip away all the bizarre, disillusioned, and downright frightening specifics of the NRA’s proposal today to create a “National School Shield,” give them the benefit of every doubt, and then massage their proposal even a little bit more, there may be a point that is at least worth debating: Should there be an armed security presence at our nation’s schools?
Unfortunately, the NRA and many of its members seem to fantasize about a world where parents dress up their 6-year old in Kevlar, drive him to school in an armored tank, flank into two columns to walk him to the school steps, hurriedly transfer him to the AK-47 wielding principal, then yell “CLEAR! CLEAR!” and fall back to their tank and retreat back to base. Despite this NRA-propagated fantasy that fat old white guys with guns are the only thing protecting us from Sharia law, Susan Rice, and kids who play too many video games, it would be a disservice to dismiss what might be a somewhat reasonable idea just because the messenger believes that President Obama’s failure to address guns in his first term was “part of a massive Obama conspiracy to deceive voters and destroy the Second Amendment in our country.” By itself, the presence of a gun at a school is not necessarily a bad idea. Like most things, the devil is in the details.
|“Yes, I do think astronauts should be armed in space.”|
The reason that people in Sandy Hook Elementary School called the police when they heard gunfire is because the police have guns. So it’s not just the presence of a gun that’s the problem, it’s who has it. In the right hands, a gun is actually what brings us some comfort. We accept armed security at stadiums, at airports, and on subways, so why not schools? Maybe it’s just better to keep ALL guns out of schools (and certainly that would be ideal), but the fact that schools are full of children might also mean that of all places, schools deserve the most protection. Whether having real police officers at schools would be effective or make things worse is unknown, but it’s at least worth discussing.
Now here’s where the NRA goes way, way off the rails:
NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre called for Congress to “appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every school,” but his henchman Asa Hutchinson assured us that the NRA’s School Shield program “doesn’t depend on massive funding from local authorities or the federal government. Instead, it’ll make use of local volunteers serving in their own communities.” If the plan is actually to use real police officers, that’s something that should be considered and we should be honest about the costs. But it appears that their actual plan is to deploy Hutchinson’s “local volunteer” army, and that’s frightening.
Having armed, professionally trained police officers at schools is a lot different than asking for volunteers to secure recess with a high-powered rifle. If I’m a parent, the last person I want around my kids during the day is some unemployed 40-something guy with a gun fetish “volunteering” to be surrounded by young children. The truth is that a lot of these wannabe vigilantes in the NRA want to blur the line between officer and civilian because they are feeling irrelevant in a quickly-evolving society with shifting demographics – or they are just unemployed guys with gun fetishes.
|“Gather round kids. Who wants to hear a story?”|
In criticizing violent video games, LaPierre incredulously asked, “Isn’t fantasizing about killing people as a way to get your kicks really the filthiest form of pornography?” But fantasizing about killing people is the exact fantasy that the NRA is peddling. The only difference is that instead of fantasizing about shooting up a movie theater, they dream of a scenario where they draw their gun first, take out the shooter, and then get interviewed by Sean Hannity. If anyone is deluded by video games, it’s these self-deputized pretend cops.
The fact that LaPierre and Hutchinson contradicted each other and themselves so blatantly — on the one hand, the government has to pony up and hire professionals; on the other hand, let’s give the English teacher a shotgun — exposes this “School Shield” program for what it is: a total diversionary tactic. If the NRA gets the debate to shift from gun control to armed security at schools, then they’ve already won.
Armed security at schools has absolutely nothing to do with whether high-caliber weapons and ammunition should be banned or whether gun-show loopholes should be closed (they should, immediately). If the “volunteer” is armed with a handgun, but the crazed-shooter has an assault rifle, is that a fair fight? Should they both have the same weapons? Or should the volunteer have something more powerful than the shooter? A machine gun? A missile launcher? A stealth bomber circling above the school? Our plan for dealing with Iran’s nuclear program isn’t to hand out more nuclear weapons to everyone in the Middle East. We’re trying to stop them from getting one, because even though we have more than them, we don’t want them to use theirs. The goal should be to protect kids, not have an arms race.
As so many have pointed out, the issue is obviously not just about guns. Mental health and cultural violence are factors, but no one has ever crazy’d someone to death and you can’t kill 26 people by throwing video games at them. You do that with guns. Big, powerful guns that shoot a lot of bullets in not a lot of time. You cannot stop this problem, or even make a dent in it, if you don’t immediately do something about guns and bullets.
So here’s a newsflash for LaPierre and the most extreme gun-crazy NRA folks out there: You are not a Navy Seal; you’re sealed in your basement playing Call of Duty. You are not an American hero; you’re eating a gyro with American cheese. And you’re not starring in Die Hard; you’re dying from diabetes. So take down the Confederate flag, put away your camouflage vest, and have a seat at the table trying to figure out how to protect our schools. Because somewhere within you, if we give you every benefit of the doubt, there might be a decent idea.