NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, December 21st, 2012

NRA’s answer to Newtown tragedy: Put armed guards in every school in America

This morn­ing, the Nation­al Rifle Asso­ci­a­tion (NRA) and its zeal­ous leader, Wayne LaPierre, final­ly broke their silence over the slaugh­ter of twen­ty chil­dren and sev­en adults at Sandy Hook Ele­men­tary in New­town, Con­necti­cut.

At a press con­fer­ence in the Dis­trict of Colum­bia, not far from the White House, LaPierre said that imme­di­ate action need­ed to be tak­en to pro­tect Amer­i­ca’s school­child­ren. But he did­n’t throw his lob­by’s sup­port behind an assault weapons ban, leg­is­la­tion to close the gun show loop­hole, or increased fund­ing for men­tal ill­ness treat­ment. Instead, he called for armed guards in the nation’s schools.

Now, the Nation­al Rifle Asso­ci­a­tion knows that there are mil­lions of qual­i­fied active and retired police; active, reserve and retired mil­i­tary; secu­ri­ty pro­fes­sion­als; cer­ti­fied fire­fight­ers and res­cue per­son­nel; and an extra­or­di­nary corps of patri­ot­ic, trained qual­i­fied cit­i­zens to join with local school offi­cials and police in devis­ing a pro­tec­tion plan for every school. We can deploy them to pro­tect our kids now. We can imme­di­ate­ly make Amer­i­ca’s schools safer — rely­ing on the brave men and women of Amer­i­ca’s police force.

The bud­get of our local police depart­ments are strained and resources are lim­it­ed, but their ded­i­ca­tion and courage are sec­ond to none and they can be deployed right now.

I call on Con­gress today to act imme­di­ate­ly, to appro­pri­ate what­ev­er is nec­es­sary to put armed police offi­cers in every school — and to do it now, to make sure that blan­ket of safe­ty is in place when our chil­dren return to school in Jan­u­ary.

Reac­tion to the NRA’s press con­fer­ence came swift­ly. New York May­or Michael Bloomberg, cofounder of May­ors Against Ille­gal Guns, blast­ed LaPier­re’s media event and pro­posed course of action:

The NRA’s Wash­ing­ton lead­er­ship has long been out of step with its mem­bers, and nev­er has that been so appar­ent as this morn­ing. Their press con­fer­ence was a shame­ful eva­sion of the cri­sis fac­ing our coun­try.

Instead of offer­ing solu­tions to a prob­lem they have helped cre­ate, they offered a para­noid, dystopi­an vision of a more dan­ger­ous and vio­lent Amer­i­ca where every­one is armed and no place is safe. Lead­er­ship is about tak­ing respon­si­bil­i­ty, espe­cial­ly in times of cri­sis. Today the NRA’s lob­by­ists blamed every­one but them­selves for the cri­sis of gun vio­lence. While they pro­mote armed guards, they con­tin­ue to oppose the most basic and com­mon sense steps we can take to save lives — not only in schools, but in our movie the­aters, malls, and streets.

Enough.

As a coun­try, we must rise above spe­cial inter­est pol­i­tics. Every day, thir­ty-four Amer­i­cans are mur­dered with guns. That’s why sev­en­ty-four per­cent of NRA mem­bers sup­port com­mon sense restric­tions like crim­i­nal back­ground checks for any­one buy­ing a gun. It is time for Amer­i­cans who care about the Sec­ond Amend­ment and rea­son­able gun restric­tions to join togeth­er to work with the Pres­i­dent and Con­gress to stop the gun vio­lence in this coun­try. Demand a plan.

House Demo­c­ra­t­ic Whip Ste­ny Hoy­er was asked what he thought of LaPier­re’s com­ments dur­ing a brief­ing that he and Nan­cy Pelosi held for the D.C. press corps. “I do not believe those remarks rep­re­sent any­where near a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of Amer­i­ca,” Hoy­er replied. “I don’t believe, frankly, that they rep­re­sent nec­es­sar­i­ly the major­i­ty of views of respon­si­ble mem­bers of the Nation­al Rifle Asso­ci­a­tion who want guns to hunt, want guns to pro­tect their home and their house, and our chil­dren.”

On Slog, David Gold­stein esti­mates that LaPier­re’s pro­pos­al to put armed guards in every school would cost at least $18 bil­lion a year. He came up with that fig­ure by cal­cu­lat­ing approx­i­mate­ly how many schools the coun­try has, and then look­ing at the aver­age salary of a police offi­cer:

Accord­ing to the U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice, the nation­al aver­age annu­al cost of employ­ing a police offi­cer was $116,500 in 2007. Round­ing up to $120,000 to account for infla­tion, that’s $120,000 times 150,000 offi­cers: LaPier­re’s pro­pos­al would cost tax­pay­ers about $18 bil­lion a year.

But bud­gets are tight — how to pay for it? Well, as the NRA likes to remind us, free­dom isn’t free, and who bet­ter to pay this cost than the gun own­ers them­selves? Var­i­ous esti­mates place the num­ber of civil­ian firearms in the US at about 250 mil­lion. So, $18 bil­lion divid­ed by 250 mil­lion guns: An annu­al license fee of about $75 per gun should ade­quate­ly cov­er the expense of the NRA’s pro­pos­al to put armed police offi­cers at every K‑12 school in the U.S.

LaPierre stuck to his script­ed remarks dur­ing the NRA’s media event. He did not take ques­tions or explain how his “Nation­al School Shield Emer­gency Response Pro­gram” would be imple­ment­ed, let alone fund­ed. (An annu­al license fee on guns could sup­ply the rev­enue need­ed, as sug­gest­ed above, but LaPierre did­n’t pro­pose that.) His speech was inter­rupt­ed sev­er­al times by pro­test­ers, who had to be hauled out of the room by secu­ri­ty. LaPierre did not acknowl­edge the pro­test­ers.

Besides call­ing for armed guards, LaPierre also rant­ed and railed at great length against vio­lent video games and vio­lent enter­tain­ment… as if video games rep­re­sent­ed a big­ger threat to the safe­ty of Amer­i­ca’s youth than Bush­mas­ters and Glocks, which are actu­al weapons that can kill peo­ple!

And here’s anoth­er dirty lit­tle truth that the media try their best to con­ceal: There exists in this coun­try a cal­lous, cor­rupt and cor­rupt­ing shad­ow indus­try that sells, and sows, vio­lence against its own peo­ple. Through vicious, vio­lent video games with names like Bul­let­storm, Grand Theft Auto, Mor­tal Kom­bat and Splat­ter­house. And here’s one: it’s called Kinder­garten Killers. It’s been online for ten years. How come my research depart­ment could find it and all of yours either could­n’t or did­n’t want any­one to know you had found it?

Then there’s the blood-soaked slash­er films like “Amer­i­can Psy­cho” and “Nat­ur­al Born Killers” that are aired like pro­pa­gan­da loops on “Splat­ter­days” and every day, and a thou­sand music videos that por­tray life as a joke and mur­der as a way of life. And then they have the nerve to call it “enter­tain­ment.”

But is that what it real­ly is? Isn’t fan­ta­siz­ing about killing peo­ple as a way to get your kicks real­ly the filth­i­est form of pornog­ra­phy? In a race to the bot­tom, media con­glom­er­ates com­pete with one anoth­er to shock, vio­late and offend every stan­dard of civ­i­lized soci­ety by bring­ing an ever-more-tox­ic mix of reck­less behav­ior and crim­i­nal cru­el­ty into our homes — every minute of every day of every month of every year.

Wow. Could it be more painful­ly obvi­ous that the Nation­al Rifle Asso­ci­a­tion is a front for gun man­u­fac­tur­ers? What a dodge: blame vio­lent video games for cor­rupt­ing the minds of young peo­ple, but ignore every­thing that gun man­u­fac­tur­ers have done to make it eas­i­er for peo­ple to acquire and car­ry dead­ly weapons that can kill a lot of peo­ple in a very short amount of time.

The exis­tence of games like Grand Theft Auto or Mor­tal Kom­bat is not a secret. When Grand Theft Auto first came out, it made head­lines, and there was a dis­cus­sion about restrict­ing its avail­abil­i­ty. I remem­ber that cov­er­age.

It is not true that our nation’s mass media has attempt­ed to con­ceal the exis­tence of vio­lent video games or shield the mak­ers of such games from crit­i­cism. Law­mak­ers such as Joe Lieber­man and Jay Rock­e­feller have expressed con­cerns about vio­lent video games for years, and have even gone so far as to pro­pose leg­is­la­tion lim­it­ing the sale or dis­tri­b­u­tion of graph­ic games. How­ev­er, there is no sol­id evi­dence link­ing vio­lent video games to vio­lent acts.

As for “Kinder­garten Killers”, that’s a very old Flash game which was cre­at­ed by an out­fit that pur­pose­ly posts shock­ing mate­r­i­al on its web­site to offend peo­ple. The game was nev­er pop­u­lar and is no longer online.

Plen­ty of peo­ple find vio­lent video games dis­taste­ful; I’m one of them. I don’t play first-per­son shoot­er games and nev­er have. I just don’t find them enjoy­able. I’d rather play clas­sic real-time strat­e­gy titles like Age of Empires or Com­mand & Con­quer. But I know per­fect­ly friend­ly and com­pas­sion­ate peo­ple who do play Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, Cry­sis, Halo, or count­less sim­i­lar fran­chis­es.

It’s pos­si­ble that vio­lent video games desen­si­tize some peo­ple to actu­al vio­lence. But a gamer does not have the abil­i­ty to go out and cause car­nage with­out a real weapon sup­plied by a gun man­u­fac­tur­er.

Peo­ple don’t die or become phys­i­cal­ly injured as a result of play­ing a vio­lent video game. But peo­ple do die as a result of mis­han­dling their own guns. When a loaded gun goes off, it can kill. And acci­den­tal dis­charges of dead­ly weapons are unfor­tu­nate­ly a com­mon occur­rence. We hear about such inci­dents all of the time.

LaPierre could have use his press con­fer­ence today to throw the NRA’s weight behind increased fund­ing of ser­vices to help the men­tal­ly ill. But he did­n’t.

What he did say was this:

How many more copy­cats are wait­ing in the wings for their moment of fame — from a nation­al media machine that rewards them with the wall-to-wall atten­tion and sense of iden­ti­ty that they crave — while pro­vok­ing oth­ers to try to make their mark?

A dozen more killers? A hun­dred? More? How can we pos­si­bly even guess how many, giv­en our nation’s refusal to cre­ate an active nation­al data­base of the men­tal­ly ill?

How is an “active nation­al data­base” going to stop men­tal­ly ill peo­ple who want firearms from obtain­ing them at a gun show or from a store in a state with lax weapons acqui­si­tion reg­u­la­tions?

LaPier­re’s press con­fer­ence was so bad, it’s get­ting scathing reviews from all quar­ters. Even con­ser­v­a­tives are say­ing it was coun­ter­pro­duc­tive.

Per­haps film­mak­er Michael Moore —  who once inter­viewed LaPier­re’s pre­de­ces­sor Charl­ton Hes­ton for his 2002 Acad­e­my Award-win­ning doc­u­men­tary Bowl­ing for Columbine - had the best reac­tion. He called the NRA’s response to New­town “the most deranged, delu­sion­al ‘press con­fer­ence’ I’ve ever seen.”

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