The New York Times Editorial today gets it exactly right. Blasting the NRA’s leader Wayne LaPierre for a “mendacious, delusional, almost deranged rant” in which he blamed even musicians for Newport while sidestepping the blame that should accrue to his own organization, which “devotes itself to destroying compromise on guns”, the editorial quickly eviscerated his proposal.
Let’s be clear, civilians bristling with guns to prevent the “next Newtown” are an armed mob even with training offered up by Mr. LaPierre. Any town officials or school principals who take up the N.R.A. on that offer should be fired.
Mr. LaPierre said the Newtown killing spree “might” have been averted if the killer had been confronted by an armed security guard. It’s far more likely that there would have been a dead armed security guard — just as there would have been even more carnage if civilians had started firing weapons in the Aurora movie theater.
In the 62 mass-murder cases over 30 years examined recently by the magazine Mother Jones, not one was stopped by an armed civilian. We have known for many years that a sheriff’s deputy was at Columbine High School in 1999 and fired at one of the two killers while 11 of their 13 victims were still alive. He missed four times.
People like Mr. LaPierre want us to believe that civilians can be trained to use lethal force with cold precision in moments of fear and crisis. That requires a willful ignorance about the facts. Police officers know that firing a weapon is a huge risk; that’s why they avoid doing it. In August, New York City police officers opened fire on a gunman outside the Empire State Building. They killed him and wounded nine bystanders.
Anti-gun campaigners were quick to point out on Friday that putting armed guards in schools has been tried – and has failed.
The Violence Policy Centre said that Columbine High School in Colorado had armed law enforcement agents on call when two teenagers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, embarked on a shooting spree in 1999. The agents were unable to prevent the deaths of 12 students and one teacher. They were “outgunned by the assault weapons wielded by the two teens”, the VPC said.
Similarly, Virginia Tech had armed police on campus who were unable to prevent the deaths of 32 people in a mass shooting in 2007.
The NRA plan “has already been tried and it didn’t work”, said the VPC’s executive director, Josh Sugarmann.
America’s problem with gun violence is not confined to schools. In August, in Wisconsin, six worshipers were killed at a Sikh temple. A month earlier, in Colorado, 12 moviegoers were killed and 58 injured at a midnight showing of the Batman film The Dark Knight Rises.
President Barack Obama’s first term also saw multiple gun deaths at an army base, shopping malls, a civic centre and a political event in Tucson.
Critics of the NRA proposal have pointed out that protecting schools would not mean an end to gun-related deaths. The majority of the 30,000-plus shooting deaths which occur in the US every year did not happen in or near schools.
Of course, the NRA proposal isn’t about keeping kids safe at all. At best, it is an attempt to muddy the waters, because as Matt noted earlier today, it’s all about the Benjamins for the NRA. They get the bulk of their money from gun makers, and there’s a run on guns right now. Ka-chinggg!