I’ve been writing about gun violence, the messages used to sell guns and actions activists have been taking to prevent gun deaths for over 15 years. After the Uvalde shooting I went back to revisit the topic to see what I’ve learned and what I think will happen next. I also want to point to some good gun law changes we have made and some messages we can spread about them.
The Republicans will push to get more guns in schools following the Uvalde shooting. This is the “do something” that the Republicans can get behind. It builds on the premise that people with guns in school will be able to shoot and kill an active shooter before they kill kids.*
Guns are NOT a passively defensive tool like a bullet proof vest. They won’t stop a bullet coming at you. Guns are an active, offensive weapon. This active, offensive role of the “virtuous person with a gun” is what appeals to men who want to actively respond to threats to their property and their families. For them it’s not good enough to passively stop bullets, they want an active component that stops/kills the person who is the threat.
In Florida the NRA super lobbyist Marion Hammer used this understanding of the desire for action to give parents an active, offensive response to gun violence by pushing legislation that allocated massive amounts of money for more people with guns in schools–even though there was no evidence that they were effective.
Here are some of the articles I wrote here at Crooks & Liars in 2018 and 2019.
Lawmakers Determined To Get Guns In Schools
Why Are School Boards Putting More Guns In Schools?
Florida House To Vote On Giving More Teachers Guns, Just Days After Armed Teacher Injured Child
The strategy was that when the money was provided, the local school board would take it. They also put in rules like, “If you don’t take the money for these armed people, you can’t use it for something else.” So Florida had school board meetings with board members saying, “We have If the parents said, “We don’t WANT SROs! They don’t work! They put minority kids in jail!” The board response was, “Well, then we’ll have to arm teachers.” When the teachers and parents said, “We don’t want armed teachers!” The Board said, “All the other school districts get money for “safety” and we have to use it this way. If we don’t. we’ll miss out. Do you want YOUR kids to die? Better safe than sorry!”
At the time I wrote and suggested all the ways to stop arming teachers, like the costs of insurance, the problems with training teachers, the liability to the district when there was a negligent discharge of a gun. But time and time again it was the allocation of money that won. That, and a concerted effort to push a narrative that was not supported by reality. A narrative that non-coincidently supported more guns in schools.
These armed teachers or other adults were sold an active surrogate who would respond as a the stereotypical male parent would. Meaning the stand-in parent wouldn’t just die to protect their child, they would also kill the person hurting their child. This stereotypical male parent operates under the idea that you must stop the threat with the same deadly force the threat was using. This flies in the face of the facts since, the majority of school shootings were stopped by unarmed people tackling the shooter. This strategy also had the primary benefit to the gun lobby of selling more guns.
I’m basing this on having listened to dozens of town hall and school board meetings, following multiple state gun legislation hearings, reading the great work of Mike Spies on Marion Hammer and the NRA, lurking in concealed gun carrying forum and talking to gun rights activists.
I watched hours of Florida legislation hearings. I saw how slogans overpowered reality. Myths and wishful thinking won the day when it came to getting more armed people in schools. HOWEVER, I also saw some good, effective laws get passed. David Hogg was on Joy Reid talking about what they did to pass one set of good laws. Red Flag laws.
With the Uvalde shooting we know that the police didn’t respond quickly enough. We now know that the School Resource Officer (SRO) wasn’t there. But even with armed people there, they can’t respond fast enough, especially if someone gets the drop on them. The Washington Post article points out that most school shootings happen quickly.
The Post analysis found that gun violence has occurred in at least 68 schools that employed a police officer or security guard. In all but a few of those incidents, the shootings ended before law enforcement of any kind intervened — often because the gunfire lasted only a few seconds.
Scarred by School Shootings, March 25, 2018 Washington Post
The “more guns in schools” people want to kill the perpetrators before they can kill kids & teachers. But that is rare. Since they can’t do that, their next goal is to minimizing the number of dead. And they believe that using a gun to kill the shooter is the only way to stop them. But based on the facts, the majority of school shootings were stopped by unarmed people tackling the shooter.
I wrote a piece about this, Keep Praising Unarmed Good Guys Who Tackle Shooters, featuring James Shaw, who tackled a shooter at the Waffle House in 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee and Jason Seaman, science teacher & school football coach who ‘immediately ran up to the un-named student, swatted the boy’s cocked gun out of his hand before tackling him” in Indiana, Noblesville West Middle School in 2018.
Here’s a short video I made about how student Jon Meis tackled a shooter at the Seattle Pacific University in 2015. The shooter killed Paul Lee, 19 and injured Sarah Williams. He is serving 112 years in prison.
This myth that people will guns is the only way to stop shooters persists because of the power of a slogan and the psychology of the people wanting a solution that offers them the hope that a teacher or other adult responsible will take action that is not just defensive, but offensive. They will run toward the shooting to kill the shooter before more can be killed. Just like the parent pictures he would act in the same situation.
I expect the same push for guns in school will happen now, even though the evidence clearly isn’t there. They will using the line, “If that Uvalde SRO cop” was there, like they were supposed to be, he would have stopped him!” They will point to the times that after the killing was donecops finally killed the shooter. They will say armed guards are “deterrents,” even though this isn’t supportedThey use flawed data about defensive gun use to say guns are deterrents and to get rid of “gun free zones”
They will use the same discredited arguments this time and move the battle to the school district meetings where school board members will not want to oppose any measures, especially if the legislation gives out money for more cops, guards and teachers with guns in the schools. As I said, I watched hours of these school board meetings and the false data got thrown up constantly. Now with Moms Demand Action for Gunsense in America, there were occasionally people there to debunk the bad information. But the guns everywhere people have lots of SLOGANS. NEVER discount the power of slogans.
(Speaking of slogans. What is OUR best slogan? Don’t give me a modified version of their slogans showing they are wrong. I teach people to NOT repeat the other sides’ taking points!)
“Hopelessness is the gun industry’s killer accomplice.”- CKS
I constantly hear media people say “Nothing has changed.” meaning they aren’t seeing the changes that WE on the left want–like assault weapon bans at the national level. Sadly, the gun lobby did get the change they wanted, more guns in schools by allocating money to those programs. They also made it easier for people to GET guns with permitless carry in multiple states. (BTW, STOP calling it “Constitutional Carry. that’s the name they like!”)
So, if they will support legislations to get more guns in schools following the Uvalde shooting, EVEN IN THE FACE OF ITS INEFFECTIVENESS, we need to keep pushing against it, showing it’s a lie. AND, we also need to push for OUR gun safety programs that ARE effective, that HAVE passed.
I’m going to end this piece with the full 7 minute clip of David Hogg on the Reid Out with Joy Reid. You can see that while she is focusing on the, “nothing has been changed” part of the story, David talks about the good changes that were made. They passed age limits for assault weapons and Red Flag laws in Florida. Those laws work. Let’s make them happen nationwide.