WHO CAN SPEAK SENSIBLY
ABOUT SCHOOLS & GUNS?
I have never been comfortable with involving kids in political campaigns or politically tinged causes.
No doubt, the presence of apple-cheeked toddlers or clean-scrubbed, wholesome looking young people can add a certain moral luster — rather like when a candidate trots out the wife and kiddies for a campaign ad. Such gestures purport to show concern for the future and commitment to what’s best for those we love.
But whether it’s baby strollers at a protest outside a local abortion mill, or the spooky video that appeared early in Obama’s first term showing cute little black kids marching and chanting to demonstrate their pride in the new President, there’s always an element of exploitation.
This element is clearly on display in the “children’s crusade” that has emerged from the horrific school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
That these kids are heartsick and frightened — and motivated to have an impact — is perfectly understandable.
That high-schoolers are capable of mounting an organized national campaign isn’t plausible in the least.
Jack Kingston, a former Republican congressman from Georgia, said it best when interviewed on CNN…
“Let’s ask ourselves: Do we really think 17-year-olds, on their own, are going to plan a nationwide rally?”
Does this negate the importance of listening to young people’s anxieties about facing death at school? Of course not.
Although…wisdom dictates maintaining a proper perspective on how much their recitations of a traumatic experience really add to the discussion. As Catholic commentator Patrick Archbold wryly expressed it on Facebook…
“We all know that emotionally charged children make the best public policy.”
Let’s focus on who’s actually running this movement. That’s what can tell us about its true priorities.
Plans are afoot for a “National School Walkout” on April 20, anniversary of the massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado. The chief promoter appears to be psychologist David Berliner, Emeritus Professor of Education at Arizona State University (clearly not a high school student).
In support are the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the Network for Public Education, and other mainstays of the liberal school establishment. The Women’s March is planning its own related activity on March 14: a 17-minute walkout in honor of the 17 fatal Parkland victims.
What we see here is the application of a principle expressed by Rahm Emanuel when he was Obama’s chief of staff…
“You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that [is] it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.”
It hardly needs pointing out that, as mayor of Chicago, Emanuel presides over an ongoing bloodbath of teenagers taking place virtually every day on the distressed urban battlefields of the Windy City.
The working assumption right now seems to be that this particular rampage, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, coming as it does after a series of other premeditated mass killings, has tipped the scales of public willingness to accept a significant change in gun-control policy. And that may very well be true.
The killings occurred in an ethnically mixed, suburban, middle-class high school, not in a Chicago ghetto. In other words, it hits close to home for most Americans. So, taking Emanuel’s principle to heart, anti-gun activists are not going to let this crisis “go to waste.”
It’s no great stretch to assume that this is also an opportunity for ratcheting up pressure on the Trump Administration. After all, any horrible thing that happens while The Donald is in the White House is his fault, just because — well, just because it’s him in the White House.
Trump has responded with expressions of sympathy and concern (not that anything he says could possibly be deemed adequate). He’s offered several policy suggestions. But the main drift of his thinking is toward strong defense — hardening our schools as protection against potential violence. He has advocated arming teachers and school staff members.
Predictably, this proposal is being criticized as dangerous, if not downright loony. A series of alleged firearms experts have chimed in on how difficult it is for even well-trained police officers or soldiers to hit their targets amid the chaos of a firefight — a point made in this tweet currently circulating online.
I don’t question the truth of such assertions. Nor do I question why teachers would be reluctant to serve as their students’ line of defense. And, of course, there are legitimate concerns about the dangers of bullets flying, in whatever direction.
But a shootout isn’t the situation teachers would likely face. And their primary effectiveness does not depend on being firearms experts themselves.
What matters is that guns change the risk equation.
If a significant number of teachers and school staff members are known to be armed, then a would-be mass murderer can never be sure whether he’ll encounter old Mr. Shakyhands, who can’t hold his Glock level, or young Miss Deerslayer who’s out in the woods every fall on opening day.
It makes planning and execution of the mission more difficult — and thus tends to reduce the body count. So Trump’s approach has a certain merit.
Not all young people are caught up in anti-gun fervor. Lesley Clark of McClatchy News Service found some students at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference who offered a very different perspective…
“At Justin Vaughn’s Maryland high school, support for curbing guns runs deep, ‘and I’m on the “wrong side,” the 17-year-old says ….’ His peers think that he’s ‘supporting killers, when I’m really supporting people who want to protect the Constitution.’”
“Eric Folkerts, 20, a freshman at University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, said he believes the Parkland students are ‘victims being used as pawns in a way to advance a political agenda.’
“‘They’re 16, 17, 18, the reality is they really don’t know what they’re talking about,’ he said. ‘Just because you go through a tragedy doesn’t mean you know the issues, the policy and the legislation.’”
Some Parkland students who initially wanted to speak out for a strong response to the shooting have had second thoughts after sensing that the deaths of their schoolmates have been coopted to serve an agenda.
Colton Haab, a member of Stoneman Douglas High School’s Junior ROTC program was invited to tell his story on CNN, but backed out. He told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson that when he submitted his statement in advance to CNN executive producer Carrie Stevenson, she rejected it and scripted a comment for him. As reported by Real Clear Politics…
“Haab told Carlson he wanted to go ‘speak [his] part’ and ‘open eyes’ to a few things he thought could make the situation better. Haab said the network [CNN] was dishonest and that is why he decided not to attend. He also said he was directed to ‘stick to the script.’ ‘She [Carrie Stevenson] had actually said that over the phone that I needed to stick to the script,’ Haab said of the CNN producer.”
(CNN has denied Haab’s accusation, insisting that he wanted to give an “extensive speech.”)
What is the proper response to incidents like Parkland?
Would restrictions on large-capacity, rapid-fire weapons make a meaningful difference? It might at least reduce fire power.
Would Trump’s proposal to give some on-site fire power to educators do the job? It might at least provide a measure of deterrence.
Ought we to do both?
Is there something else we should do?
What I do know — as I wrote in my last blog post — is that relying on better psychological profiling and intervention doesn’t offer much hope. Not unless we’re willing to cede more in the way of individual rights so the state can take action before a budding mass murderer goes completely off the rails. But then, as I asked in that piece…
“What are we willing to give up for the sake of safety?”
In any event, don’t expect much from this “children’s crusade.” Anything other than — as they say in Yiddish — kinderspiel: the talk of children.
The lefty Common Dreams provides an overview of the planned walkouts — necessary “Because ‘Nothing Has Changed Since Columbine’”…
It appears that not all teachers are opposed to being armed in school. A Texas sheriff who offered special firearms training for educators found his office flooded with applications …
“We have 250 and growing fast. We will start training fast, next week.”
Also in Texas, The Blaze reports that the Needville Independent School District has warned students that they face three-day suspensions if they walk out of class. A letter from district officials noted…
“Respect yourself, your fellow students and the Needville Independent School District and please understand that we are here for an education and not a political protest.”
Hey — that’s Texas…
Meanwhile in Kentucky, a school board has gone ahead and voted to allow teachers to carry concealed weapons. As the Lexington Herald-Leader reports…
“This decision is not easy, deciding to put weapons in a school that you’re trying to keep weapons out of,” said Pike County School Board Chairman Justin Maynard. “I don’t know that it stops [school shootings], I think it ultimately minimizes it.”
Dissenting from the recent Supreme Court refusal to review a California law requiring 10-day waiting periods in gun purchases, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that…
“the Second Amendment is a disfavored right in this Court.”
“If a lower court treated another right so cavalierly, I have little doubt that this Court would intervene.”
Not that it matters, since according to Progressive talk show host Thom Hartman, the Second Amendment was all about preserving slavery…
“The real reason the Second Amendment was ratified, and why it says ‘State’ instead of ‘Country’ … was to preserve the slave patrol militias in the southern states….”
Don’t like something? Call it “racist.” That’ll take care of that…
Security specialist Eric Prince, brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and founder of the well known Blackwater security firm, offers a practical view of increasing physical safety in our schools — one that relies on what Catholics would call subsidiary…
“States, counties and municipalities are in a better position to adapt practical defensive solutions adapted from best practices [better than the federal government]. Wyoming will certainly handle this differently than Connecticut. Some will depend on resilient faculty or parents, while some will opt for armed contracted guards. The most important thing is to be practical, not emotional, about what actually works.”