One day after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, my son, who is an eighth grader at a local Lutheran grade school, told me they had an “active shooter drill” at school.
He practiced hiding under a desk and learned about finding an inner closet, or moving to a wall out of view from the doorway. He knows to be quiet. He knows his teacher will lock the door and turn out the lights. He also harbors dreams of heroism.
“I’ll grab something sharp like a pair of scissors, and hold a book in front of me for protection,” he told me. “Then I can throw the book at him and get the gun out of his hands.”
These words of fourteen-year-old bravado break my heart. A pair of scissors and a book would not have protected my son from the semi-automatic AR-15 used in Parkland. Neither will staying quiet and hiding under a desk. These drills are a 21st-century version of the nuclear era “duck and cover.”
These drills are a 21st-century version of the nuclear era “duck and cover.”
Nikolas Cruz waited for the end of the school day bell before he started picking off his former Parkland classmates and teachers with an AR-15. With this strategy, no duck-and-cover training would have saved the seventeen victims.
How did it come to this? The National Rifle Association will have you believe that people like me are far-left radicals who want to rip all guns from people’s hands. (To the contrary, I have no problem with people owning handguns or hunting rifles. I grew up in Central Wisconsin, where hunting season was a right of passage.) I respect the Second Amendment, yet, no argument will ever convince me that semi-automatic weapons should be in the hands of civilians. In fact, the NRA spends millions every year to convince us that this makes any sense at all.
In the July 1, 2016, edition of the NRA’s magazine, America’s First Freedom, includes an essay from editor Mark Chesnut, “Ten Reasons To Own An AR-15.” Chesnut’s reasons vary from self-defense to hunting, but one element he finds most convincing is the element of fun.
“If you can find a rifle out there that’s more fun than the AR-15, I’m not sure what it would be,” he writes. “From short-range plinking to longer-range precision shooting, the gun is easy to shoot—and easy to hit targets with. And, as you know, nothing’s more fun than hitting what you shoot at.”
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In what is now bone-chilling language, Chesnut also celebrates the AR-15 for easy accuracy: “With simple operation and very low recoil, there’s no better rifle to teach youngsters the skill of accurate rifle shooting,” he writes. “While those that hate guns would have you think the AR-15 is nothing more than a murder machine, in truth it’s the musket of our day.” He concludes by adding that it’s an “everyman’s rifle, proudly owned by patriotic men and women of all ages, colors and interests.”
In December 2012, in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting, the NRA established an education and training program, “National School Shield,” which it provided free to schools. The program suggests schools employ double entry doors, locking rooms, and carrying out drills to respond to gun violence. The NRA released a summary report in April 2013, suggesting schools are underfunding protection measures, including failing to support more armed personnel on campus.
Teachers already contend with teaching and managing a classroom. And the NRA is telling us it’s a good idea to ask them to carry firearms and be ready to use them—likely against former or current students.
Teachers already contend with classroom management, instruction, and worrying about the safety of their students. And the NRA is telling us it’s a good idea to ask them to carry firearms and be ready to use them—likely against former or current students.
The influence of the NRA on our political system is heavy. The money is no joke. Over his political career, Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio has received $3.3 million from the NRA. Donald Trump received $30 million dollars from the NRA during his 2016 presidential campaign. In 2017, the association spent $5,122,000 just in lobbying, up $1.5 million from its record high in 2015 of $3,605,564.
Emma Gonzalez, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, observed that Donald Trump received $30 million from the NRA, and lamented, “divided by the number of gunshot victims in the United States in the one and one half months in 2018 alone that comes out to $58,000. Is that how much these people are worth to you, Trump? . . . To every politician that is taking money from the NRA, shame on you.”
Mass school shootings will not be ended by increasing school preparedness, arming teachers, or asking our children to hide. Let’s be honest. It’s hard to “refuse to be a victim” when a gunman has the potential to unload a thirty-round magazine on your school.
Classic duck and cover.