Yesterday in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room in the West Wing, named for the press secretary who was near-fatally shot in the head during an assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan, President Obama boldly announced that Vice President Biden would be heading a task force to assemble a syllabus of new regulations against guns and the gun culture. This is, of course, fantastic news and it's very likely that out of this task force we'll at least achieve a new ban on assault rifles, a ban on extended clips and the closing of loopholes including the insidious gun show loophole, which allows Americans to purchase firearms at gun shows without a background check or waiting period.
This is a fantastic first step, but as I've written before it can't be the only action that's taken. During this ongoing process, activists should not only continue to push the federal government to be persistent in its campaign against the gun culture, but there needs to be tenacious activism at the state level, where we've witnessed one Republican legislature after another pass horrendous laws against women, workers and minorities.
And it looks like the next state-level legislative atrocity will be a movement to arm school officials and teachers.
Yes, the Republican Party's first legislative reaction to the Sandy Hook massacre has been to propose that educators become soldiers and schools become police-states.
First there was Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Crazy Caucus) who wished that the school principal, Dawn Hochsprung, had been armed with an M-4 and fired back at Adam Lanza. Yes, because nothing could've possibly gone wrong amidst a hail of bullets with terrified kindergarteners caught in the crossfire during a shootout. Then there was Bill Bennett the Hutt who, on Meet the Press, said, "I'm not so sure I wouldn't want one person in a school armed, ready for this kind of thing. Has to be someone who's trained. Has to be someone who's responsible."
Then today, Delegate Robert G. Marshall of the Virginia state legislature proposed a law that would require some teachers and staffers to carry concealed firearms in public schools. And just in case you think Marshall is a big nobody from the lower house of the legislature and couldn't possibly get such a law passed, Governor Bob McDonnell basically endorsed the idea yesterday. McDonnell said, "If people were armed, not just a police officer, but other school officials who were trained and chose to have a weapon certainly there’d [have] been an opportunity to stop aggressors coming into the school."
Ah yes. The familiar right-wing deterrent argument. As we've noted before, having a gun in the house makes the occupants less safe, and it's not a stretch to apply the same research to schools.
Elsewhere, Tennessee Republicans plan to introduce similar legislation -- secretly arming a teacher or two, basically the equivalent of an air marshal, but for schools.
I can't underscore this enough: there simply shouldn't be firearms of any kind on school grounds. Ever. Even if we were to concede that firearms make schools safer (there's no evidence they do), can you imagine the message this sends to kids in their most formative years? We'd be associating schools with war-zones and prisons. We'd be reinforcing the very thing that needs to be destroyed: the American cultural disease that dictates we escalate gun violence rather than ameliorating the root causes of the crisis. Don't worry about why people want to kill you in school, just be sure you have enough ammo so you can fire back.
Why do you think law enforcement officials are supremely cautious during armed hostage situations and don't simply blast their way into buildings? Crossfire breeds collateral damage. Innocent people get shot.
So rather than reducing the prevalence of firearms, the first Republican idea out of the gate is to inject more guns into schools and to have one or more school officials prepared to take the situation in hand by assaulting heavily armed gunmen whose only goal is to simply kill as many people as possible. It's difficult to imagine a more absurd suggestion other than, say, training five-year-olds to bum-rush a psychopath who's firing away with a semi-automatic assault rifle, while also carrying two semi-automatic handguns and lots of extended magazines -- other than columnist Megan McArdle, of course, who seriously proposed such an idea yesterday.
While I'm here, it's worth mentioning a National Review editorial written by Charlotte Allen in which the anti-feminist conservative wrote:
Male aggression can be a good thing, as in protecting the weak — but it has been forced out of the culture of elementary schools and the education schools that train their personnel. Think of what Sandy Hook might have been like if a couple of male teachers who had played high-school football, or even some of the huskier 12-year-old boys, had converged on Lanza.
Here it is again: the idea that the solution to this problem isn't reducing access to firearms, but to make sure teachers and administrators are more aggressive and better armed. In this case, make sure they're aggressive men who possess testosterone, which is apparently the like Wolverine with his adamantium skeleton -- able to deflect bullets and heal instantly. Not only that but both Dawn Hochsprung and Mary Sherlach tried to tackle the gunman but were shot in the process. If they had been men, the bullets would've had the same horrible effect.
This is the American gun culture in action. Whenever there's a tragedy or an attack, too many of us react by wanting to escalate the violence. The people who are responsible for this attitude must be marginalized and their ideas tossed onto the slagheap of history. These are the very ideas that have corroded our society and augmented the gun culture: the prevailing wisdom that the only thing standing between America and the evildoers are guns and, I suppose, testicles. And the last thing we need right now is this archaic nonsense embedded in our schools.