Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The NRA Now Wants To Make It Mandatory To Arm Children In School!

(UPDATED -- See below)

Remember after the Sandy Hook tragedy how the NRA was silent for so long?  Even those of us who were used to the cynicism of the nation's main gun lobby thought that, maybe, the brutal deaths of all those elementary kids and teachers might be enough to get the NRA to at least sit at the same table and consider what could be done to find middle ground.

When the NRA finally broke its silence, instead of working with other organizations to find a way to keep guns out of the hands of madmen like Lanza or limit the deadliness of their weapons, the NRA had an entirely different proposal that shocked the rest of the world:  Arm our schools!  

They blamed the media.  They blamed video games.  And they blamed the absence of guns (of course) in schools.  They called for a program to train and arm school administrators and guards, and even teachers, and played up the myth of the conceal carry hero.  It was a line that any sane person would recognize as insanity, and was only supported by groups known to be exceedingly extreme (like this one from here in Oregon).

In doing so, they ignored all those cases of conceal carry gun owners and guards who actually CAUSED incidents by carrying guns on school campuses, some of which since happened because the schools followed the NRA's recommendation (Four, in fact, which you can read HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE)!

The reaction to the NRA's extremist position was swift and negative, including from the people of Newtown and teachers organizations:
The American Federation of Teachers called the suggestion "irresponsible and dangerous," while the National Education Association described it as shocking and based on the "delusional assumption that everything other than guns contributes to these tragedies."
Those of us who were used to the NRA's widely out-of-touch views wondered how they could possibly become any more extreme.  "What's next?" we wondered, thinking it exaggeration, "Will they want to arm the kids, next?"

For years, with household gun ownership falling and a largely aging white, male population of gun owners, the market was becoming saturated.  Marketing to women and minorities isn't terribly successful, and you can only sell so many guns to those who already own guns and buy into the NRA paranoia about the government coming to take them away.  The only other market to tap was that of children. 

The push to sell guns to kids and their parents has been shameless.  I'm not talking about hunter-safety programs here, or even Eddie Eagle.  The NRA has tried, and failed, to lower the legal age for teens to buy guns to 18, in Texas.  They host special "youth day" events to prop up child memberships.  Gun manufacturers market small, pink and multi-colored rifles, such as Crickett rifles, specifically made for children.  And they have a large number of kids' apparel and publications aimed at normalizing these lethal weapons for kids.

So this week it wasn't particularly shocking to those of us who know the NRA that they suggested that kids in school be armed.

Let me say it again:  This week, the NRA suggested that kids in school should be armed.  And not just armed, but have it as a requirement to be trained in order to pass a grade!

One of the NRA News commentators floated the idea this week on their website, in a video aptly entitled "Everyone Gets A Gun."

He starts the video with symbolic descriptions of civil rights against discrimination due to race, creed, gender, and other factors, for education, healthcare, food, and retirement.  The passive inference, of course, is that the Second Amendment is supposedly a right to have any gun anywhere, despite what the Supreme Court has stated against that suggestion in the Heller case, as well as in a number of federal court cases since then.

He then launches into the concept of requiring gun training in grade schools and making schools "guns required zones."  From a Media Matters article:

In a July 21 NRA News video titled "Everyone Gets A Gun," NRA News commentator Billy Johnson said, "We don't have a U.S. gun policy. We have a U.S. anti-gun policy" that is based on "the assumption that we need to protect people from guns" and "that guns are bad or dangerous."
Instead Johnson wondered what gun policies the United States would have "if we designed gun policy from the assumption that people need guns -- that guns make people's lives better." Johnson then made the following recommendations that would "encourage" and might "reward" people "to keep and bear arms at all times."
  • Johnson wondered, "What if instead of gun free-zones we had gun-required zones?"
  • He imagined a compulsory education system that would require children to become proficient with firearms, just like "reading and writing," even "if they didn't want to learn" in order to advance in school: "Gun policy driven by our need for guns would insist that we introduce young people to guns early and that we'd give them the skills to use firearms safely. Just like we teach them reading and writing, necessary skills. We would teach shooting and firearm competency. It wouldn't matter if a child's parents weren't good at it. We'd find them a mentor. It wouldn't matter if they didn't want to learn. We would make it necessary to advance to the next grade."
  • Like "education, healthcare, food, [and] retirement," Johnson suggested that gun ownership be subject to a government subsidies, either through "government ranges where you could shoot for free or a yearly allotment of free ammunition."
We wouldn't want kids to see "that guns are bad or dangerous" would we? 

Well, the commentator seems to forget that, 

.... according to one study, almost 3000 kids are killed each year in America from gunfire, and another 14,000 are injured.

... the United States accounts for nearly 75 percent of all children murdered in the developed world. Children between the ages of 5 and 14 in the United States are 17 times more likely to be murdered by firearms than children in other industrialized nations.

... children in the United States between the ages of 5 and 14 have an overall suicide rate twice the average of other developed nations. This stark difference is driven almost exclusively by a firearm-related suicide rate that is 10 times the average of other industrialized nations.

Sounds pretty "bad or dangerous" to me!

[More statistics on the deaths and dangers of guns and children can be found HERE and HERE].

There have been at least 74 school shootings just since Sandy Hook (here's a MAP).  Arming teachers or children isn't the answer to stopping them.  To stop this, we shouldn't make fortresses of our schools.  Instead, we need to do more to keep guns out of the hands of those who would abuse them, by putting in place commonsense gun regulation to require safe storage of guns in homes with kids, universal gun background checks, better mental health reporting, and requirements to report lost or stolen guns.

Just as importantly, we need to adhere to the same rule we tell our children:  you can't stop violence with more violence.  When we teach our kids that the only way to feel safe is to arm ourselves with lethal weapons and prepare ourselves to kill others, then something very wrong has happened to our culture. 

UPDATE (7/25/14):  It didn't take long for the NRA's bizarre "make-kids-learn-guns-in-school" proposal to make waves on Twitter and news sites and for sane people to start criticizing them (examples HERE, HERE, and HERE).  In response, the NRA started backpedaling, and clipped out the end of the commentator's video (where he suggests that firearms training be mandatory to pass grades).  You can read more on this backpedaling in an article from MediaMatters.