Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Myth Of The Conceal Carry Hero: Coming To Your Kids' School?

It's been a week, now, since the horrible mass murder of 20 young children and 7 adults in Newtown, Connecticut.  Adam Lanza, armed with a .223 Bushmaster AR-15 semi-auto assault rifle, multiple 30-round high-capacity magazines, two pistols, and a bullet-proof vest, first shot his mother to death in her sleep, then stormed the Sandy Hook Elementary School, murdering 6 adult staff members and 20 children, ages 5 and 6, before killing himself. 

It's been a week of worldwide shock, a week of mourning, a week of burials, and a week of nationwide discussion about gun violence like we haven't had since the Columbine massacre.

It's also been a week of discussion about what could be done to reduce the danger, by keeping guns out of the hands of madmen before they can act.  The President, for instance, suggested strengthening background checks and banning assault weapons again, visited the mourners in person, and appointed Vice President Biden to form a task force to find solutions.  There have been so many articles written from so many good viewpoints, about what could be done, that I've hardly had time to read even a fraction of them.  If anything good has come of this horror story, it's that the country has finally opened their eyes and ears to the overwhelming problem of guns getting into the wrong hands.  It's a shame it took the death of 20 innocent elementary kids to do it, but now is the time to discuss the problem.

It's also been a week of cowardly silence from the NRA and the NSSF (National Sport Shooting Foundation) which has its headquarters in Newtown, ironically!).  The NRA even shut down its Facebook page during that period, and silenced its Twitter feed.  It's like they stuck their fingers in their ears, shut their eyes tight, and hollered, "Lalalalalala!"  After all, the death of innocents is too inconvenient for their "more guns in more places" rhetoric. 

And the NSSF?  When they finally recover from the shock I wonder if they will still claim, as they do on their website, that "groups wanting to ban these rifles have for years purposely or through ignorance spread misinformation about them to aid their cause."  If by "misinformation" they mean our claim that assault rifles are purpose-made for killing large numbers of people quickly, making them unnecessarily dangerous for civilians to own, then I think the bodies of 20 small children and seven adults at their doorstep should be enough to validate our claim.  Will this make them admit it, finally?  "CONSIDER YOUR MAN CARD RENEWED," reads a disgusting ad for these weapons.  Apparently Adam Lanza's "man card" is very active.  Bushmaster must be so proud.

Bushmaster ad
And so, after a week of shameful silence, the NRA's finally unveiled what they consider a plan to help reduce shootings on school campuses.  Basically, it boils down to this:  put armed guards on every school campus across the nation, and the problem is due to "gun free zones," the old scapegoats of violent movies, music, and video games -- Oh, and it's the media's fault, too.  The problem doesn't have anything to do with guns and their availability, apparently.  Don't believe me?  HERE is a transcript.  An excerpt:

LaPierre:  Now, the National Rifle Association knows there are millions of qualified and active retired police, active, Reserve, and retired military, security professionals, certified firefighters, security professionals, rescue personnel, an extraordinary corps of patriotic, trained, qualified citizens to join with local school officials and police in devising a protection plan for every single school. 
We could deploy them to protect our kids now. We can immediately make America’s schools safer, relying on the brave men and women in America’s police forces. The budgets -- and you all know this, everyone in the country knows this -- of our local police departments are strained, and the resources are severely limited, but their dedication and courage is second to none. And, they can be deployed right now.
That's right, you read it correctly.  The NRA wants more people with guns to solve the problem.  Shocker!  And they weren't willing to take any media questions, either (no surprise, given that they blame the media for not towing the line of their propaganda).

Nowhere in their "plan" is strengthening of background checks, or getting rid of assault rifles, or mandatory safe storage of guns.  And nowhere in their "plan" is there any mention about guns being too easy to get into the wrong hands.  The problem couldn't possibly be guns!  Guns are just inanimate objects no more dangerous than staplers, right?

He then pulled out one of the NRA's top lapdogs from mothballs, former Congressman Asa Hutchinson from Arkansas, to lead their "plan, " who added:

Whether they’re retired police, retired military, or rescue personnel, I think there are people in every community in this country who would be happy to serve if only someone asked them and gave them the training and certifications to do so.

And, according to Hutchinson, these "watchdogs" will be 100% volunteer!

That's right.  In other words, they're going to get citizens with conceal carry permits to voluntarily carry guns around schools, looking for someone suspicious.  Sorta like George Zimmerman did for his apartment complex.  I think we all know how that turned out.

This isn't the first anyone has suggested this.  Other politicians have as well in recent days.  In fact, the extremist group here in Oregon, the Oregon Firearms Federation, has suggested the same thing in an alert entitled "Time To Arm Teachers":

Training in classroom lock-down techniques is valuable, but passive. Classroom lock-down procedures alone fail to protect the children and adults who continue to be murdered before the police arrive. A police officer in every school is not the answer; a police officer would be the first target of a shooter and the cost would be prohibitive for most school districts. .... Lives would be saved by stopping the shooter. Seconds count when the police are five minutes away. It would be simple, inexpensive and enable immediate response after the first gunshot in a school was fired if two or three volunteers in every school (administrators, staff members or teachers), were encouraged to obtain additional training and practice in the use of firearms and were encouraged to have a firearm concealed on their person or locked in their desks. .... In short, having armed and trained personnel in every school would enable immediate response with lethal force if and when the lives of our children and teachers were endangered by a mass murderer.  
If this procedure had been implemented, the number of children killed in every school massacre from Columbine to Sandy Hook would have been greatly reduced.

Did you catch that?  They don't want police.  They want to arm teachers and school staff.  Because, you know, it's not enough that they teach our children all day for minimal pay.  They should be school security, too!  For free, no less!

After the Aurora massacre, I posted about the pro-gun fantasy of the "conceal carry hero."  Pro-gun guys, like Ted Nugent and Glenn Beck, were sputtering on about how they wished they had been in the theater, to take on the (armored, assault weapon-armed) bad guy with their little concealed handguns.  It's a common fantasy of the gun guys.  They always consider themselves to be more cool-headed and better aiming than the police or the bad guy, no matter what the odds.  Now they want to extend that fantasy to classrooms, too.

Never mind that ...

Just because someone has a conceal carry permit doesn't make them sensible, well-trained, or safe (here in Oregon, for instance, you don't even need to fire a single bullet to qualify for a permit).  And stepping onto school grounds won't magically change basic human failings.

Reaction to the NRA statement was swift and negative
Former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele called the NRA's remarks "very haunting and very disturbing." 
"I don't even know where to begin," Steele said on MSNBC after the NRA's statement. "As a supporter of the Second Amendment and a supporter of the NRA, even though I'm not a member of the NRA, I just found it very haunting and very disturbing that our country now that are talking about arming our teachers and our principals in classrooms. I do not believe that's where the American people want to go." 
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie told reporters in Newark Friday morning he doesn't agree that placing armed guards in schools would effectively deter violence, according to a Bergen Record report
"In general I don't think that the solution to safety in schools is putting an armed guard because for it to be really effective in my view, from a law enforcement perspective, you have to have an armed guard at every classroom," he said. "Because if you just have an armed guard at the front door then what if this guy had gone around to the side door? There's many doors in and out of schools." 
Christie said his comments were not specific to the NRA's proposal as he had not yet seen the statement. 
Outspoken gun-control advocate New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the statement "a shameful evasion of the crisis facing our country." 
"Instead of offering solutions to a problem they have helped create, they offered a paranoid, dystopian vision of a more dangerous and violent America where everyone is armed and no place is safe," he said. "Enough. As a country, we must rise above special interest politics." .... 
Mark Kelly, a retired astronaut and husband to former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who was seriously injured in a shooting in Tuscon last year, expressed disappointment in the NRA's remarks in a post to his Facebook page. 
"The NRA could have chosen to be a voice for the vast majority of its own members who want common sense, reasonable safeguards on deadly firearms, but instead it chose to defend extreme pro-gun positions that aren't even popular among the law abiding gun owners it represents," Kelly said.
But what about the people of Newtown?  How do they feel?  After all, this horror occurred in their town.  Given that their town is also home to the NSSF, surely they feel armed guards in every school is a good idea, right?  Nope.  From one article:

Democratic congressman and senator-elect Chris Murphy, whose congressional district includes Newtown, tweeted a sharp reaction from Connecticut after the group's comments: "Walking out of another funeral and was handed the NRA transcript. The most revolting, tone deaf statement I've ever seen."

“How dare they?” fumed Elizabeth Murphy, 42, who lives in [Newtown]. “We are all still grieving. This is the wrong time to discuss their goal of putting more guns on the street . . . The bodies haven’t even all been buried yet.”

Also, the parents of one of the slain children in Newtown, Chase Kowalski created a fund in their son's name, which will be used to foster gun control, after his mother had a vision of her son visiting her (bolding added):

Becky takes a deep breath on Wednesday in the funeral home and says, “Okay, the best day of my life started on Sunday morning when my son came to me in a vision. He came to tell me to explain to my husband that the scope of this event was so large and that there were so many people around the country and the world we were touching. I felt that my son was here in this vision to tell me that the not-for-profit scholarship organization that we are starting in Chase’s honor will save lives, change building codes, demand gun and ammunition control, and that in Chase’s name I would like to bring God back to America. These are the first starting goals of the organization.”

And the American people want gun control.  Poll after poll have shown very high support, even among gun owners and NRA members, for gun control measures such as mandatory background checks, mandatory training and certification, assault rifle bans, and waiting periods.  They've started 32 petitions for gun control on the White House's "We The People" site, which have garnered nearly 200,000 signatures. And the President has responded to this huge outpouring of support: 
I am also betting that the majority -- the vast majority -- of responsible, law-abiding gun owners would be some of the first to say that we should be able to keep an irresponsible, law-breaking few from buying a weapon of war. I'm willing to bet that they don't think that using a gun and using common sense are incompatible ideas -- that an unbalanced man shouldn't be able to get his hands on a military-style assault rifle so easily; that in this age of technology, we should be able to check someone's criminal records before he or she can check out at a gun show; that if we work harder to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, there would be fewer atrocities like the one in Newtown -- or any of the lesser-known tragedies that visit small towns and big cities all across America every day.

Teacher organizations, too, are quickly releasing statements against this NRA "vision."  From one article:
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."

One of the CodePink protesters
Wayne LaPierre should have gotten his first clue about the negative reaction to his statement when, twice during the speech, he was interrupted by protesters from CodePink, one of which held a sign stating, "NRA KILLING OUR KIDS" and another saying "NRA BLOOD ON YOUR HANDS."

Sorry, Wayne, but militarizing our schools isn't the answer to gun violence.  More guns doesn't equal less crime.  If it were true, we would be the safest nation on earth.  Unfortunately, the opposite is true.  Instead of some cynical response to arm teachers or conceal carry "volunteers" on school grounds, let's focus on the root of the problem:  the ease by which the wrong people are able to get their hands of guns.  Only then can we make a new trajectory for our communities away from gun violence.

ADDENDUM (12/31/12):  Occasionally you hear the pro-gun guys give an "example" of a conceal carry hero stopping a mass shooting.  But the cases they mention aren't valid.  Here are the examples they give, and the truth behind them: