A day after hundeds of thousands of gun control advocates assembled across the U.S. and on every continent except Antarctica, former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum demonstrated the refusal of many in Washington to confront gun violence with common-sense legislation, by dismissing reforms proposed by students and suggesting they learn CPR in case their schools are attacked.
"How about kids, instead of looking to someone else to solve their problem, do something about maybe taking CPR classes or trying to deal with situations that when there is a violent shooter that you can actually respond to that," Santorum said during a panel discussion on CNN's "State of the Union."
"I've got a kid who's going to be in high school next year," fellow CNN commentator Van Jones responded. "If his main way to survive high school is learning CPR so when his friends get shot—that to me, we've gone too far."
Host Brianna Keilar reminded the former Pennsylvania senator that the action-minded survivors of last month's school shooting in Parkland, Fla., have begun the nationwide #NeverAgain movement, organizing protests and engaging with their elected representatives in recent weeks—and could hardly be accused of sitting back and demanding that others solve their problems.
On social media, other critics were less diplomatic than Jones.
I have to turn off the TV. I just watched Rick Santorum say kids should stop looking for other people to solve their problems, and do things like learn CPR.
America, OMG, you've lost the plot.
— Bruce Anderson (@bruceanderson) March 25, 2018
If there is a more soulless scrotesniff in all Christendom, he has had the better sense to never vocalize his thoughts in public. https://t.co/dB4jKDEbAg
— David Simon (@AoDespair) March 25, 2018
A reminder that we can’t blame everything on Trump. We have had some truly awful presidential candidates in the not so distant past.
— Richard W. Painter (@RWPUSA) March 25, 2018
Serious question: Has @RickSantorum seen images from the slaughter at Stoneman Douglas High? What kind of CPR could have been used to save them?
Stop putting this man on television. https://t.co/UDR71Alae0
— Ja'han Jones (@_Jahan) March 25, 2018
With his suggestion, Santorum added his name to a growing list of gun rights advocates who have insisted in the wake of recent mass shootings that stricter regulations on gun ownership are not the solution to gun violence.
President Donald Trump and a number of Republican lawmakers urged states to arm teachers after last month's shooting in Parkland, Florida, which gave way to the student-led #NeverAgain movement. After 58 people were killed in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history in Las Vegas last fall, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) advised Americans to "get small" in the event of such an attack.
At Saturday's demonstration, students warned politicians who have accepted donations from gun lobbying groups like the NRA that if they don't take action to pass reforms—such as raising the minimum age for gun purchasers and banning high-capacity ammunition magazines and military-style semi-automatic weapons—young people will take action by voting them out of office.