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“Ineffective And Disastrous”: Why The NRA’s Plan To Put Armed Guards In Every School Won’t Work

Before we just laugh away the NRA’s plan to put armed guards (either police or volunteers) in every school in America, it’s worth at least asking: Would it even work? People who actually study gun violence were not impressed.

“The statement by the NRA is without any evidence that it would be effective,” said Dr. Fred Rivara, an epidemiologist at the University of Washington and the editor-in-chief of the pediatrics division of the Journal of the American Medical Association, in an email to Salon.

In fact, there was an armed sheriff’s deputy at Columbine High School the day of the shooting. There was an armed citizen in the Clackamas Mall in Oregon during a shooting earlier this month. There was an armed citizen at the Gabby Giffords shooting – and he almost shot the unarmed hero who tackled shooter Jared Loughner. Virtually every university in the county already has its own police force. Virginia Tech had its own SWAT-like team. As James Brady, Ronald Reagan’s former press secretary and gun control advocate, often notes, he was shot along with the president, despite the fact that they were surrounded by dozens of heavily armed and well-trained Secret Service agents and police.

“It’s kind of fantasy thinking to assume that armed citizens are going to take out the bad guy and that nothing will go wrong,” Daniel Webster, the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, told me last week for a separate article on why the answer to gun violence is not more guns.

And what happens to the guns while they’re sitting around waiting for a mass killing to occur? They could be discovered by a suicidal student, unintentionally fired by a child or even inadvertently set off by a police officer, like this Oakland, California, cop who shot himself in front of a classroom full of students three years ago.

Today, Dr. Jerome Kassirer of Tufts University’s School of Medicine wrote that arming school teachers and nurses is a bad idea. “If we judge by recent experiences, this strategy is wanting. In Florida, a ‘neighborhood watch coordinator’ killed an unarmed boy who was acting suspiciously; and near the Empire State Building, police fire injured 9 pedestrians while they were subduing 1 shooter. Would ‘more guns’ lead to fewer gun deaths? Unlikely.”

Instead, the experts call for expanding federal support for gun violence research (Congress has statutorily limited gun violence research for political reasons since the 1990s), protecting doctors’ rights to ask patients about guns, and the passage of common-sense gun regulations like a ban on high-capacity magazines.

Arthur Kellerman, a prominent gun violence researcher now at the RAND Corporation, worried the NRA’s plan would only increase the number of guns that could cause harm. “Armed guards? Do they have any idea how many schools, kindergartens, day cares, ball fields, and playgrounds there are? Where would this stop?” he asked in an email.

Meanwhile, as Josh Barro points out, schools are already relatively very safe. There were just 15 homicides out of a population of 55.6 million K–12 students in the 2008–09 school year (giving you a 1 in 3 million chance of being killed at school), and students outside of school are twice as likely to be victims of serious crimes as those inside schools. Matt Yglesias adds that the NRA’s plan is a horribly inefficient use of resources, as you’re better off using those extra police officers elsewhere.

“Rather than seize this opportunity to show the American public the NRA can be a rational partner committed to preventing more innocent children from being murdered, we saw an NRA leadership today that was reactionary, tone deaf and out-of-sync with the majority of gun owners in this country,” Alicia Samuels, the communications director for the Johns Hopkins’s gun research center told Salon. “Wayne LaPierre is not in a position to speak on behalf of every parent, child, teacher and school administrator in this country whose lives would be most impacted by this fanatic, dangerous idea. The only people who benefit from this extremist more-guns mentality are gun manufacturers.”

Watch this 20/20 special from 2009 where they set up a realistic experiment to see if people are even capable of responding to school shootings effectively. The answer? Almost certainly not.


By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, December 21, 2012

December 23, 2012 Posted by | Guns, Public Safety | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Overpaid And Underperforming”: Gov. Scott Walker Trusts Teachers With Guns, But Not With Collective Bargaining

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who became nationally known for severely limiting the union rights of teachers and other public employees, has indicated support for arming those same school officials who apparently cannot be trusted to collectively bargain.

As Americans search for answers and policy solutions in the wake of the tragic school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, Gov. Walker has apparently decided that the problem is not too many guns — it is that there are not enough.

Giving guns to teachers should be “part of the discussion,” he said on December 19. Walker refused to endorse an assault weapons ban or other limits on the types of guns or ammunition that can be sold.

Teachers Need Guns, Not Unions?

Walker’s infamous Act 10 legislation drastically curtailed the collective bargaining rights of most public employees in the state, prompting months of historic protests and a recall effort. The governor justified the harsh legislation — which he never mentioned during the campaign that installed him in office — largely by demonizing unionized teachers as overpaid and underperforming.

The six teachers killed in the Newtown massacre, all members of an American Federation of Teachers (AFT) union chapter, have been widely praised for their heroism, with many shot while trying to shield their students.

“This has kind of pulled the curtain away to show who teachers really are,” AFT President Randi Weingarten told In These Times’ Mike Elk. “Teachers’ instinct is to serve, to protect and to love. And you saw that in full view in Newtown this week.”

For Weingarten, the way to prevent additional mass shootings is not through arming teachers. Unions have historically not taken a position on gun issues, but in the wake of the Newtown massacre, AFT is now taking up support for gun control.

“Teachers lost their lives protecting their kids, lunging at a gunman with an assault weapon. We should be getting guns out of society,” she said.

Wisconsin Site of Two Mass Shootings in 2012, Walker Given NRA Award

Two of the last six mass shootings in the United States have occurred in Wisconsin.

On August 5, a white supremacist killed six people and wounded four others at a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, then killed himself during a shootout with police.

On October 21, a man entered a day spa in Brookfield and murdered three women, one of whom was his wife, and wounded four others before taking his own life. The killer had a domestic violence restraining order against him, and despite Wisconsin law prohibiting domestic abusers from purchasing guns, he avoided a background check by purchasing the gun from a private dealer.

But the state’s Republican Attorney General does not think Wisconsin has a gun problem, and Walker and the Republican-controlled state legislature have marched lockstep with the gun manufacturer’s lobby.

In 2011, Walker signed into law a version of the Florida-style “Stand Your Ground” bill implicated in the Trayvon Martin tragedy as well as a new concealed-carry law that allows the public to carry guns inside the State Capitol, even while restrictive access rules prohibit cameras or signs. Legislators are now allowed to bring guns onto the Assembly and Senate floors.

In April, the National Rifle Association (NRA) gave Walker the Harlon B. Carter Legislative Achievement Award, honoring him for passing the “Stand Your Ground” and concealed carry laws. As the Center for Media and Democracy has reported, both laws echo American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) “model” legislation, and ALEC has been one of the key avenues by which the NRA has exerted its influence over state law and policy.

ALEC is also an organization through which corporate interests have pushed anti-union legislation, most recently in Michigan, where legislators copied the ALEC Right to Work Act almost word-for-word.

But with the latest school shooting prompting unions like AFT to put their weight behind gun control, ALEC now is not the only place where union rights and gun issues intersect.

And unions will not be the only ones to note the absurdity of responding to gun violence with more guns, particularly by putting them in the hands of the same teachers who some public officials believe cannot be allowed to collectively bargain.


By: Brendan Fischer, Center for Media and Democracy, December 21, 2012

December 23, 2012 Posted by | Guns, Teachers | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“There’s A Larger Story”: Why Won’t The Press Put U.S. Gun Violence In Context?

Another unfolding American gun massacre has produced an avalanche news coverage, but it’s coverage that continues to omit crucial context about gun violence and the rash of often public shooting sprees that plague the country. It’s a troubling journalism trend, and one that seems to be getting worse. As America recoils from new shootings, the news media are casting the gun horrors in less context, not more.

It’s true that the press is moving away from presenting shooting sprees as isolated incidents. The coverage of the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn., has been rich with references to the Aurora, Colo., movie theater massacre from this summer. Then again, how can reporters not connect the dots from those two rampages to a sweeping cultural and criminal problem, and one that continues to worsen and extends to all corners of the country.

But simply acknowledging the deadly trend doesn’t mean the news media are providing much-needed context. For instance, each year roughly 30,000 Americans die from gun violence. By comparison, since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, approximately 4,300 Americans have died in that conflict.

As Forbes’ Rob Waters noted, from the period between 2000 to 2009, “If you exclude natural causes of death and consider only deaths caused by injury, [gun violence] is the second-leading cause of death over that time span; only car accidents (417,000) killed more people.” And according to Bloomberg News, the number of Americans killed by guns will soon exceed the yearly number of auto fatalities, as auto-related deaths are falling and gun fatalities are rising.

To understand the larger story of gun violence in America, people have to understand the context. People have to be aware of the 30,000 figure. They ought to know, for instance, that in the week since Newtown, an estimated 500 Americans have died from gunfire, and more than 1,200 have been wounded. They ought to know that just since the Sand Hook School massacre, approximately 50 more American children and teens have died from gunfire.

If we don’t understand the saturation status we’re not going to understand the steady stream of public shooting sprees.

But news consumers aren’t getting that information from the media – at least not in the wake of the Newtown tragedy.

Very few mentions of the 30,000 statistic have appeared in newspaper articles or on television segments about the Connecticut massacre. In fact, a Nexis search uncovers only two major newspaper news articles that referenced that key figure in the last week, one in the San Francisco Chronicle, on December 18, and one in the Hartford Courant December 19. (The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Tampa Tribune and Indianapolis Star published references to the 30,000-death statistic in opinion pieces about the Newtown killings.)

On television, the references were just as rare: I found only four. One each on PBS, CNN, NBC and MSNBC.

It’s possible that a handful of additional newspaper news accounts and television discussions mentioned the fact that approximately 30,000 people die from gunfire every year. (Nexis transcripts don’t capture every cable news segment.) But given the extraordinary amount of coverage of the Newtown shooting, the press had ample opportunities to highlight the 30,000 number. But these findings indicate that the references were quite scarce. In fact, they were even scarcer than when I urged the press to include crucial gun death context following the Aurora gun massacre in July.

Other key points that have been largely ignored in the Newtown coverage:

•There are huge economic costs associated with gun violence. For example, firearm-related deaths and injuries resulted in medical and lost of productivity expenses of about $32 billion in the U.S., according to most recently available data.

•Gun violence is among the leading causes of premature death in the U.S.

•Among the world’s 23 wealthiest countries, 87 percent of all kids killed by guns are American kids.

The point here isn’t to simply to wallow in a grim statistics. It’s to illustrate how little context is included in the so-called ‘gun debate’ in this country. And especially the so-called gun debate that takes place in the media.

If that conversation is really going to happen it’s imperative Americans understand what’s at the center of the topic, and that sadly, this crisis extends far beyond Newtown.

By: Eric Boehlert, Media Matters for America, December 21, 2012

December 23, 2012 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Simplistic, Shameful And Opportunistic”: Connecticut School Officials Blast NRA’s Reaction To Newtown

Teachers, school superintendents, mayors and police chiefs in Connecticut are rejecting the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) response to the shooting in Newtown, describing the gun lobby’s proposal to equip schools with armed guards and more guns as too simplistic, shameful, and opportunistic.

One Connecticut school superintendent dismissed the NRA’s suggestion as “an ill-conceived reaction from an organization that does not have any credibility or expertise with respect to addressing school violence” and said that the idea “is an excuse for not addressing the need to enact meaningful safe gun legislation in conjunction with an investment in mental health services.” Putnam Police Chief Rick Hayes called the proposal “scary,” noting that teachers can’t possibly have the kind of training necessary to safely handle large weapons.

In fact, newspaper headlines across the state flatly rejected militarizing Connecticut schools:






The growing outrage against the organization extends beyond school officials — even state Republican politicians are weary of eliminating school gun-free zones. Senate Minority Leader John McKinney (R), whose district includes Sandy Hook Elementary School, called the proposal “ill-timed.” “I also don’t think his idea of undoing or repealing gun-free school zones is a good idea at all,” he said. “I’ve always understood, and believe, that our Second Amendment is an integral part of our Constitution, and people should have the right to bear arms … but I think we should have a fair conversation in this country about what the limits to those rights are.”

Schools across the state are enacting greater security measures, but more guns aren’t on the agenda. Instead, districts are focusing on adding interior classroom door locks, expanding swipe-card access and requiring staff to wear photo identification.

Tom Moore, assistant superintendent for administration for West Hartford schools, told the Hartford Courant that his district “won’t be taking our advice on how to keep kids safe from the president of the NRA.” He added, “I come from a family of hunters; I have four brothers who are hunters and members of the NRA. All I’ll be asking for for Christmas, after hearing Wayne LaPierre essentially blame school officials for the shootings, is for [my brothers] to resign from the NRA.”

December 23, 2012 Posted by | Guns, School Violence | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Real Plan B”: Pay For NRA’s Armed Guard Plan With A Gun Tax

After a week of radio silence after the Sandy Hook massacre, the National Rifle Association resurfaced today with a predictable solution to protecting the nation’s schoolchildren from gun violence: More guns.

At a press conference, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre proposed putting an armed police officer in every school in the nation, to guard against the “unknown number of genuine monsters” that he says are waiting for their chance to mount a similar assault. “With all the foreign aid, with all the money in the federal budget, we can’t afford to put a police officer in every school?” asked LaPierre.

LaPierre says an armed presence on school grounds actually would provide what he touts as “absolute protection” against an attack—a shaky assumption, considering that Columbine High School had an armed county sheriff’s deputy on the campus when it was attacked by two teenage gunmen in 1999, and he was unable to prevent them from killing a dozen students and a teacher, and injuring 21 others.

But let’s assume that LaPierre is right, and that putting an armed officer in each of the nation’s 132,183 public and private schools would make schools safer. How would we fund it? According to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, the nation has 461,000 local police officers, but they already have plenty of responsibilities to keep them busy, and it’s hard to imagine police departments allocating more than a quarter of their personnel to watching over schools. So clearly, we’d have to recruit, hire, equip and train more officers for the job. According to the agency, the average total operating cost of each officer—including salary, benefits, equipment, and training—is $116,500.

That means that the NRA’s proposal would cost taxpayers about $15.4 billion annually.

I know that LaPierre doesn’t think that’s a lot of money compared to what we spend on foreign aid, but in fact, it is well more than any item in the foreign aid budget. According the State Department’s FY 2013 fact sheet, the cost of providing an armed officer to every school in the nation would amount to five times what we provide in military assistance to Israel ($3.1 billion in 2012), and nearly four times the $4 billion that we spend on humanitarian assistance to war refugees and victims of natural disasters. It would amount to 15 times what we spend to support the United Nations and other international organizations.

So we’re talking about a lot of bucks here, especially at a time when federal taxes seem almost certain to go up for most Americans in 2013. Is it fair that the majority—70 percent of Americans, according to this 2011 survey—who don’t own guns should pay higher taxes to support the NRA’s idea, because of LaPierre’s insistence that gun control laws are unfair to gun owners?

I say no. Instead, here’s a counter-proposal. Let’s tax gun purchases to subsidize the cost of the NRA’s school security proposal. Gun owners bought 10.8 million firearms in 2011, according to Ammoland, a website for gun enthusiasts. At a surcharge of, say, $1,425 per weapon, we’d have enough to provide the absolute protection that LaPierre wants. We might be able to lower that a bit by adding additional taxes to ammunition as well.


By: Patrick Kiger, U. S. News and World Report, December 21, 2012

December 23, 2012 Posted by | Guns, Public Safety | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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