It’s not like I had any illusions that anything NRA executive vice-president and talking-head-in-chief Wayne LaPierre would say on Friday morning, one week after the deadly shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary that killed 20 children, would transform me from a crunchy liberal pacifist into some big-time assault weapons fan-girl. But I still didn’t expect to be as horrified by his ludicrous words as I was. I didn’t expect to be as chilled to the bone by his utterly inevitable suggestion that the solution to our national gun problem is more guns – nice and close to our kids. “With all the foreign aid, with all the money in the federal budget, we can’t afford to put a police officer in every school?” LaPierre said. “I call on Congress today to act immediately, to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every school — and to do it now, to make sure that blanket of safety is in place when our children return to school in January.”
Frankly, I haven’t heard a stupider idea since Donald Trump offered Obama $5 million for his college records. But let’s put aside the ridiculous impracticality of implementing LaPierre’s proposal to deploy a veritable army of gun-toting guards into every school in America to “blanket” our children. Let’s just address the philosophical horse crap of it.
I have two children in two different schools. Both of them have security teams that do an excellent job in screening the people who walk through the doors, but realistically probably couldn’t stop a very determined and heavily armed maniac — or two, like the murderous duos at Columbine or Westside Middle School. So I send my daughters off every morning with the hope that they will be safe in the care of their teachers and their classmates until they return home at the end of the day. I do the same thing every time they cross the street or ride a bike or get on an airplane. It’s the accepted risk of living.
Yet LaPierre, with his astonishing lack of comprehension of anything to do with the way childhood, education or life works, insisted Friday, “We care about our money, so we protect our banks with armed guards. American airports, office buildings, power plants, courthouses, even sports stadiums are all protected by armed security.” Does he get that a school is not a bank or an airport? Does he realize that a highly charged environment, where the possibility of violence is always present, is not conducive to trust or learning or building empathetic, mentally healthy individuals? I’m guessing nah.
LaPierre then went on to – shocker – blame the media, railing against the “callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells and sows violence against its own people” with “blood-soaked films out there, like ‘American Psycho,’ ‘Natural Born Killers’ … Rather than face their own moral failings the media demonize lawful gun owners.” Aside from the fact that poor LaPierre evidently hasn’t been to the movies in at least a dozen years, he seems to have forgotten that “American Psycho” is not a movie about gun violence. He might want to leave the controversy over that one to the National Chainsaw Murderers Association.
But where he really got rolling was in his call to “be personally involved and invested in a plan of absolute protection,” because “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Holy crap. Really? The only way? Then I guess the entire legal system is meaningless. Can’t stop bad guys with, I don’t know, laws. “Why is the idea of a gun good when it’s used to protect the president of our country or our police, but bad when it’s used to protect our children in our schools?” he asked, segueing into one of the all-time creepiest assertions the NRA has ever made. “They’re our kids. They’re our responsibility. And it’s not just our duty to protect them, it’s our right to protect them.”
And that right there is what’s most ominous and alarming about the NRA’s defiantly more, more, more attitude. It arrogantly believes that it’s entitled to it. And it calls upon a nation of educators and parents to “draw upon every resource that’s out there and available to erect a cordon of protection around our kids right now.”
That’s a great idea, because the armed guard at Columbine prevented the 1999 massacre there. The military personnel at Fort Hood assured the lives and safety of everyone involved in the spree there, 10 years later. The police show of force at the Empire State Building shooting last summer didn’t lead to a single bystander casualty. And when former congressman Asa Hutchinson announced he would be leading a National Model School Shield Program that “will make use of local volunteers serving in their own communities,” I’m sure that self-appointed neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, who shot and killed unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin earlier this year, would have approved. Who wouldn’t want some marginally employed parent with a deadly weapon patrolling around during their children’s recess?
This is a watershed moment in America’s lifelong relationship with guns, a moment when we are looking deeply at ourselves and how broadly we have interpreted the Second Amendment. What’s at stake is the well-being of every individual who runs the risk of one day coming into the path of a bullet. But what’s also up for grabs is our national understanding of what makes us truly safe and free. What’s possible, if we let it happen, is the chance not to “cordon” off our kids but engage them, to move on from a place not of finger-on-the-trigger fear but of hope.
LaPierre and the NRA, sticking with their tightly clung-to official script, can’t even envision an environment where fewer guns make us stronger, where our security and that of our children comes from a place of less and not more. They can’t understand that an escalation of arms and a peaceful society are oppositional concepts. And they refuse to acknowledge the near daily reality that “good guys” with guns can make devastatingly bad calls. They don’t want to hear it, because they don’t want to believe it. They’re scared of the possibility that Sandy Hook has changed us, just enough, to change the alarming ease with which we now arm ourselves. And they’re terrified we’re going to mess with what they believe is their constitutional “right” not to their guns but our children. Near the end of his press conference today, LaPierre said, “I indicated at the outset, this is the beginning of a serious conversation.” Then he added, with absolutely no sense of irony, “We won’t be taking questions today.”