This editorial will appear in the Monday print edition.
So this is the National Rifle Association’s idea of a “meaningful” way to address the kind of gun violence that killed 20 children and six school staff in Newtown, Conn.? To station armed police in every school in America?
“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” said NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre in a Friday news conference one week to the day after the Newtown massacre.
As we have made clear many times before, we support the Second Amendment and the right of individual Americans to own guns to protect their homes, for sport shooting and for hunting. We also support reasonable restrictions, the kind that might keep that “bad guy” from getting his hands on a gun in the first place, such as universal background checks designed to prevent criminals and mentally disturbed individuals from buying weapons.
But the NRA has vigorously fought closing the loophole that allows private-party sales without background checks. It has also opposed other proposed restrictions such as a ban on high-capacity magazines and microstamping of bullets that would allow law enforcement to better track firearm use.
As for funding the extra cost of tens of thousands of guards, did LaPierre suggest something like a gun and ammo tax? Of course not. He called on Congress to immediately appropriate money to put an armed police officer in every school. That would be a huge financial investment at a time when Congress is likely to make deep cuts to the military and human services.
There are 98,817 public schools in the U.S. and 33,366 private schools. Should public money be used to pay for police officers at private schools? LaPierre doesn’t say. If the private schools aren’t protected, wouldn’t they then become the target of opportunity for mad gunmen? After all, he says that the reason schools are so vulnerable is that they’re known to be “gun-free zones.”
Pierce County alone has more than 250 public schools. If the federal government could afford to fund 250 more police officers here – which it can’t – wouldn’t they do more good on the streets? Stationed in schools, they’d have little to do most of the day.
In his defiant statement Friday, LaPierre found plenty of targets to blame for the Dec. 14 tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, but absurdly easy access to assault weapons and high-capacity magazines wasn’t one of them.
His proposal does nothing to prevent violent, unbalanced people from getting guns; it only offers a chance – a slim one at that – that someone might be able to stop a well-armed gunman before he kills too many people.
In the national conversation that reasonable people are having over guns, violent entertainment and mental illness, the NRA has shown that it’s not only irresponsible, it’s irrelevant.