It’s been lurking around for awhile now — this peculiar calculus that the more people who are shot, the more guns we need. It’s a great business model if you’re in the business of guns, or if your re-election depends on the outfits and people who are in the business of guns.
WASHINGTON (Opinion) — My first thought, upon hearing that President Donald Trump was calling for the arming of “specially trained” teachers as the answer to mass shootings in our nation’s schools, was . . . “Is he fucking kidding?!” Apparently I was not alone, as pundits, comment boards, and social media absolutely exploded with disbelief, anger, derision, along with a flood of rational objections of every sort.
But Trump was not “kidding” and his vision of arming, training, and presumably paying and insuring, 20 percent of America’s teachers to shoot it out with the future Adam Lanzas and Nikolas Cruzes of the world — or somehow deter them from following through with their deranged plans — was more or less the kind of simplistic, ludicrous, reptilian response we’ve come to expect from the man who boasted of “his generals” and his “bigger Button.”
There are so many good reasons not to arm the teachers that it almost seems like an exercise in piling-on to cite them. Trump is proposing arming one out of every five public school teachers, or more than 600,000 of them, all told. Judging by the furiously negative reaction of teachers so far, he would have a hard time finding 600 recruits for such an army. But assuming he filled his quota, that would be 600,000 guns on hand in America’s schools — assuming one per armed teacher, which, given that Trump was talking handguns, would leave each would-be savior at a serious firepower disadvantage when up against a kid with an AR-15 and a brain on fire. 600,000 guns — as many have now asked, what could possibly go wrong?
If all goes well . . .
But assume the guns, every last one of them, remained safely under lock and key until the big day and its moment of truth arrived. That is, assume that no one without a key was good with locks, and no one with a key had a bad hair day or one of those episodes of the scholastic equivalent of road-rage. And assume further that, having heard the shooting begin, an armed teacher was able to — coolly, calmly — unlock the gun closet and access his or her loaded weapon and head towards the already commenced slaughter (the shooter presumably would have begun without asking anyone’s permission, certainly not a teacher’s).
What then? A shootout, with the armed but out-weaponed teacher the shooter’s priority target? With kids in the crossfire ducking for cover? And what about when the S.W.A.T. team shows up and sees an adult shooting at a bunch of kids and shoots the teacher? Is this what Trump meant by Make America Great Again?
Deterring the desperate?
But, to be fair to Trump, it would never come to that because would-be shooters would be deterred — or, as he tweeted, “ATTACKS WOULD END!” This is presumably because of the fear factor: “an armed teacher might shoot me!” But mass killing is a risky business, armed teachers or no. In fact, no mass killer that I am aware of has done his (it is almost exclusively a male profession) thing and just got on with his life.
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Many join the victims by committing murder-suicide. Many know they will be gunned down by arriving police and S.W.A.T. teams. All will be captured if not killed, and their lives as free beings will be over. If anything, putting armed teachers in the video game would simply raise the level of play and increase the warped “blaze of glory” heroism of the attack. No, attacks would not end — as any psychologist would have told our president if he had deigned to ask, people troubled and desperate enough to be mass killers of children are not so easily deterred.
The NRA’s normalization campaign
But, as cockamamie and nauseating as Trump’s “solution” is, it is the more sinister for its advancement of one of the most cynical agendas in our national history. The National Rifle Association (NRA) has for some time now nurtured the long-range goal of “normalizing” guns in every nook and cranny of American life.
Virtually every commentator saw the Parkland tragedy as bad news for the NRA — a threat, if not to its existence, then to its capacity to virtually dictate policy to captive legislators and administrators at every level of government. Many sensed a defeat for the mighty gun lobby somewhere in the offing, after an unbroken line of victories stretching back further than the mourning but angry and purposeful, newly-minted activists of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and their gathering cohorts across the country, had been alive.
But the NRA saw instead an opportunity. And I am not referring here to the quick billion-dollar windfall for some lucky gun manufacturer picked to supply the weapons, ammo, accessories, and training for the schoolroom soldiers. Parkland fit perfectly into the NRA’s larger, long-term agenda — and who better to carry the ball than the president, beneficiary of more than $30 million in NRA campaign support? Perhaps Trump and NRA head Wayne LaPierre hashed out a strategy; perhaps the president’s instincts are simply in perfect tune with the gun lobby’s. Trump has smashed through all kinds of ceilings, floors, and walls — a demagogue with a cultish following is well suited to alter the terms of any debate. So why not take the gun culture’s would-be Stalingrad and turn it into a blitzkrieg?
Guns in churches. Guns in hospitals. Guns in theatres. Guns at ballgames. Guns hidden in pockets and on display in holsters. Guns in offices. Guns in nightstands. Guns in cars. And guns in schools. What could be more normalizing? Kids across America growing up with guns, knowing they’re nearby, in their classroom, part of the furniture, like cubbies and chalk and gum stuck under your desk. No day without its gun. Or, to paraphrase Wallace Stevens, the gun at the end of the mind.
That is the vision the NRA has for this country, and that is the vision our alpha-male president apparently shares. It’s been lurking around for awhile now — this peculiar calculus that the more people who are shot, the more guns we need. It’s a great business model if you’re in the business of guns, or if your re-election depends on the outfits and people who are in the business of guns (and, for good measure, on the outfits and people who program the voting computers). The only problem is, it’s insane — as every other stable and prosperous country in the world has figured out.
The response to Trump (especially from teachers) was swift and vitriolic, as it often is. It remains to be seen whether his idea — which does, not surprisingly, seem to have a certain amount of support from his base — goes anywhere. Perhaps it will merely make the idea of deploying an army of armed security guards to patrol school hallways seem “moderate” and “sensible” by comparison. But the ball has been carried and an obscene and appalling vision has now entered into the national discourse. Already it has elbowed aside such reprehensible (to the gun industry and gun culture) measures as simply banning rapid-fire assault weapons (though the need for them is so pressing), or even prohibiting their sale to teenagers. Why think rationally like the rest of the world?
It has become for so many of us a haunting question: what sort of life will we be leaving to our children? We have already failed them in so many ways. Do we really wish to subject them to the NRA’s growth plan and Donald Trump’s video-game world view?
Top Photo | President Donald Trump speaks at the National Rifle Association Leadership Conference, April 28, 2017, in Atlanta. (AP/Evan Vucci)
Jonathan D. Simon, author of CODE RED: Computerized Election Theft and the New American Century, is a cofounder and currently executive director of Election Defense Alliance, a nonprofit organization founded in 2006 to restore observable vote counting and electoral integrity as the foundation of US democracy.