After a week of what was thought to be respectful, even remorseful, silence on the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shootings, the NRA took to the podium this morning, with… shall we say, both barrels blazing. National Rifle Association leader Wayne LaPierre addressed the media in Washington D.C. with the message that the only way to keep our children safe is to put armed security guards in schools. From the press conference transcript:
“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
It’s an old message gun advocates have stuck by after mass shootings as far back as the Jewish Community Center day camp killings in 1999. But even armed officers at schools can't always stop gunmen bent on destruction. As Daily Kos reports, there was an armed deputy onsite at Columbine High School, and yet he was not able to stop Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold from opening fire on their classmates.
Polls show that public sentiment has swayed in the past week toward greater restrictions on gun sales, and while the NRA briefing was taking place in the capitol, another gunman went on a shooting spree in Pennsylvania, killing four people -- including a woman decorating a church for a children's Christmas party.
But LaPierre’s words made it clear that for a certain segment of America, the deaths of 26 little kids and teachers is not a rallying cry for unity and reform of gun laws, but rather an incident that’s making them dig their heels in the sand even more.
LaPierre insinuated that others tried to “exploit tragedy for political gain” and that President Obama had not done enough to protect schools. Violence, he insists, is the result of violent video games such as Grand Theft Auto and Mortal Kombat, movies, and personal “moral failings”.
Earlier this week, I spoke to Eric Rossen PhD, Director of Professional Development and standards for the National Association of School Psychologists. Rossen said that increased security measures can actually create more anxiety for kids:
“In order to increase school safety, people would increase metal detectors or security guards. Those measures have not decreased violence, but have decreased the sense of perceived safety by students."
There is some tiny part of me that agrees with the NRA, simply because semi-automatic weapons have been available in this country for the past 20 years. We’ve opened Pandora’s Box, and even if we were to ban assault weapons again, how could we possibly get them out of the hands of all the people who already have them?
But if gun advocates want to push for weapons in schools (The Michigan House approved a concealed carry law last Thursday night that applies to schools, daycares, and hospitals. Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed that bill earlier this week, in the aftermath of Sandy Hook) I expect them to also approve school funding to pay for trained, background-checked officers to operate them. And please pay them a living wage, because the last thing we need is disgruntled employees with guns around our children. When our school districts don't have enough funding and need to raise class sizes, lay off teachers and don't have nurses, janitors and counselors, the last thing anyone should be doing is adding carrying a concealed weapon to their duties. Can you imagine the dangers of having weapons stored in classrooms or even in school offices?
The NRA has a plan for that, too. LaPierre introduced former Congressmen Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark) to explain the plan: volunteers.
“This will be a program that does not depend on massive funding from local authorities or the federal government. Instead, it will make use of local volunteers serving in their own communities.”
Add it to the list of school volunteer duties: photocopying, grading spelling tests, wielding firearms.
Maybe the Mayans were right. The end of the world is here…
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