The late-night comics must be licking their chops in the wake of the National Rifle Association’s much-touted proposal for addressing gun violence in America in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.
The organization’s proposal for a national “School Shields” program is a colossal misfire that was soundly and legitimately shredded by editorial boards, parents, and educators all around the country almost the moment it was released.
The proposal, for those who have not heard of the plan, entails posting armed guards at every school in America. It’s an overreaction that’s stunning for the lack of common sense that it reveals within the top ranks of the nation’s largest and supposedly most politically-powerful gun rights organization.
First of all, school shootings are exceedingly rare. For any given school, the odds of such an event are, thankfully, infinitesimal. Putting an armed guard, or guards, at each of the nation’s 98,000 school buildings would be incredibly expensive (more than $8 billion annually) and would very likely prevent absolutely nothing— and could even contribute to greater carnage in the rare case when a gunman actually enters a school.
NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre suggests that armed volunteers could take the place of paid security guards, a prospect that can only send shivers up the spines of educators, who already worry about checking into the backgrounds of volunteers who show up with nothing more deadly than books to read. Armed volunteers roaming the halls of schools all across America? Surely, Mr. LaPierre jests. It was only months ago, remember, that nine bystanders were shot in New York City as trained and experienced police officers responded to a gunman in the streets of the city. All nine of the bystanders were shot by police during the ensuing firefight. Now imagine the damage that could be inflicted by untrained and inexperienced volunteers in a similar situation. That, of course, assumes that the volunteers aren’t simply the first victims of any would-be shooter or shooters, as is the most likely scenario.
The NRA’s proposal is a gift to comics to be sure, but it can only be embarrassing for the many politicians who have closely aligned themselves with the organization. The NRA had made much of their big announcement this past Friday, and many commentators had anticipated that the organization might actually put forward a constructive proposal that suggested a willingness to embrace common sense gun control measures, such as limits on clip sizes, armor-piercing ammunition, or similar measures. It was a key opportunity for the organization to reclaim some initiative in the wake of last week’s horrific events, that have reignited a national conversation on gun control.
Instead, the organization doubled down with a “more-guns-is-the-answer” proposal that suggests an organization deeply out of touch with reality and the views of most Americans. The NRA, and the country, would have been better served by silence.