Trump's Position on Guns Defies Reason and Reality
Thousands of high school students around the nation walked out at 10am Wednesday morning, marking the one-month anniversary of the Parkland, Fla., shooting that claimed 17 lives.
The national walkout was an inspiring show of force by young people who are fed up with a government beholden to lobbyists promoting gun sales. President Donald Trump, who rarely hesitates to use his Twitter bullhorn to promote his favorite causes, remained stunningly silent on the walkouts. When asked by reporters to comment on it, his deputy spokesperson Raj Shah simply said the president “shares the students’ concerns about school safety,” and was in favor of greater mental health resources and strengthening background checks. Except of course, the students are explicitly calling for stricter gun laws—an issue Trump has overtly deferred to the National Rifle Association (NRA) in terms of setting government policy.
Trump has not only betrayed students but teachers as well in announcing that he wants to set aside funds to arm teachers as a deterrent to school shootings, rather than offer wage relief to struggling educators in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona and other states. The idea of arming teachers is nothing more than the NRA’s perverted fantasy of promoting more gun sales by using the tragedies fomented by gun use.
For a very long time, the NRA has asserted the ludicrous idea that the more weapons in a society, the safer that society. Not surprisingly, this directly benefits the NRA, which is effectively a gun manufacturers trade association rather than a gun owner’s membership club. To keep its benefactors happy, the NRA needs to continually promote gun proliferation, which in turn translates into real profits for the industry. Arming teachers is the perfect red herring to address school shootings—and benefits only those who profit off guns.
Still, that this idea, which has been laughable in the recent past, is now being seriously considered and tweeted about by the president, ought to give us pause. Even Trump seemed initially embarrassed by the idea, defensively tweeting several weeks ago that he “never said ‘give teachers guns,’ ” but instead wanted “to look at the possibility of giving concealed guns to gun adept teachers with military or special training experience” (which, of course, translates to him saying “give teachers guns”).
It is also hugely disturbing that at a time when political kowtowing to “special interest” groups is considered anathema, the NRA appears to be the exception to the rule and is considered not simply to be a powerful lobby organization, but patriotic. Rather than try to hide the influence this powerful group wields over him, Trump attempted to ingratiate himself to the head of NRA by begging ordinary Americans, on Twitter, to admire the NRA’s CEO, Wayne LaPierre, because LaPierre is among those “folks who work so hard” and are “Great People and Great American Patriots.”
After a brief moment of sanity when Trump shot from the hip and tweeted that he wanted to raise the minimum gun purchasing age to 21 and end the sale of bump stocks, NRA lobbyists took him aside in a meeting at the White House and set him straight. The president promptly flip-flopped on the issue (as he has increasingly been doing).
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway reassured the gun lobby that Trump has an “A-plus rating from the N.R.A. because he made specific promises,” as if that were an achievement worth boasting about. She also admitted that the president “understands the overlap between gun owners and those voters who supported him,” which sounds like a coded way of saying “he knows who his real bosses are.” According to The New York Times, “Ms. Conway said that no one should expect the president and the N.R.A. to be in lock step on every issue, but that they remained generally in sync.”
Imagine the spokesperson of a sitting president openly admitting that he or she has promised to be in sync with a powerful lobbying group. Now imagine that that powerful group was pushing hugely unpopular policies that would predictably lead to a more violent and dangerous nation.
In essence, the NRA’s solution to guns on school campuses has been to add more guns to school campuses. And its compliant politician in the White House, bought and paid for via $30 million in campaign contributions, is seeing to it that a moment of tragedy is spun into more gun profits and an increased likelihood of future tragedies.
The NRA and Trump must imagine the American electorate is pretty stupid if they want us to believe that arming teachers is a good idea. While there have not been many studies done to refute the “good guy with a gun” fantasy, a 2008 Rand Corp. study about the shooting statistics of New York City Police Department officers offers some guidance.
Making the obvious assumption that police are among the most highly trained marksmen in the nation, it is shocking to learn that “the average hit rate in situations in which fire was not returned was 30 percent.” In the midst of a school shooting of the type that unfolded in Parkland, Fla., an armed officer would have encountered return fire. According to the Rand study, the accuracy of well-trained armed police to hit their target was only 18 percent when the subject returned fire. That means that Trump and the NRA’s idea to arm teachers requires that a person whose primary job is to teach is being expected to wield a gun during an active shooting in which their best chance of hitting the shooter is a mere 18 percent, and that is if they are as good a shooter as an NYPD officer.
It is no wonder that the armed deputy assigned to Marjory Stoneman Douglas School did not enter the school the day Nikolas Cruz was in the middle of his killing spree. With such a low statistical chance of success against an active shooter it is no wonder that the officer presumably chose to remain alive against an assault rifle-wielding madman. As The Washington Post put it: “Facing a gunman with a high-powered weapon is a life-altering call, and officers don’t always charge in despite their training.” Indeed, at the most infamous school shooting of the 1990s, Columbine High School, two armed guards were also present, and events transpired similarly to those at the Parkland school: Trained security officers were present but did not engage the shooter to stop him.
After the Sandy Hook massacre in Connecticut, the NRA called for—you guessed it—armed resource officers in schools. LaPierre loftily announced in a manner that tried to invoke a semblance of compassion for school kids: “I call on Congress today to act immediately to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every single school in this nation and to do it now to make sure that blanket safety is in place when our kids return to school in January.”
Since arming school officers has repeatedly proved to not work, the NRA has taken to demanding we arm teachers. And Trump has gone along with it.
What’s next? After armed teachers fail to stop a mass shooting, surely the NRA will push for arming school children themselves, right? Will parents be expected to pack lunches and heat for their little ones each morning? Will LaPierre keep a straight face while he asserts: “The only way to stop a bad kid with a gun is a good kid with a gun”?
Strangely, neither the president nor the NRA risk their own personal safety at the altar of such twisted logic, relying sensibly on weapons bans at the White House and all the president’s appearances, as well as when he speaks at NRA conventions. The Secret Service does not take chances in protecting the life of the most important person in the nation. If only the life of every American child was as precious as the president’s.
Trump and the NRA want us to believe that in real life we can expect the type of scenario we see playing out in Hollywood films, where gun-wielding heroes miraculously hit every one of their targets while magically escaping unscathed in the middle of volleys of gunfire. Indeed, Trump went as far as saying about the Parkland shooting: “I really believe I’d run in there even if I didn’t have a weapon.”
Thankfully, most Americans appear to be able to tell fiction from reality and oppose arming teachers. But with the president in its back pocket, the gun manufacturers’ lobbying group doesn’t need the public on its side—for now.
With America’s children leading the way, we can only hope that their demands for sanity on this issue will prevail.