Washington • Once again, President Trump has made a cowardly, cynical and monumentally stupid retreat on the issue of guns. No one should have expected otherwise.
Forget everything he said in the wake of the Parkland shooting about the urgent need for meaningful action. Trump now takes a position that will almost surely guarantee more gun violence in schools, not less. It must take a lot of hard work and concentration to be so utterly wrong.
The president — I can’t believe I’m writing this, but it’s true — wants to arm “highly trained expert teachers” with concealed weapons. Anyone who thinks this is not one of the worst ideas in history should conduct a brief thought experiment. Imagine any one of your elementary, middle school or high school classrooms. Imagine a loaded gun in there somewhere. Now imagine what could go tragically wrong.
Trump’s support for arming teachers and his refusal to back sensible gun-control measures represent a craven surrender to the National Rifle Association. In his made-for-television meeting with members of Congress to discuss gun violence, Trump accused Republicans of being “afraid of the NRA.” But he’s the one cringing and cowering to keep the gun lobby’s favor.
Trump tried to defend his meek surrender Monday on Twitter: “If schools are mandated to be gun free zones, violence and danger are given an open invitation to enter. Almost all school shootings are in gun free zones. Cowards will only go where there is no deterrent!”
Can he really be that obtuse, or is he just pretending?
One thing that should be clear by now is that most of the perpetrators of mass shootings, in schools and elsewhere, do not launch their obscene attacks with the expectation of getting away after the vile deed is done. A few do survive, such as the Parkland shooter, but there is almost never any indication that escape was part of the assailant’s plan. These are not rational acts by rational people.
It is ridiculous to think that the fear of getting shot by a teacher would serve as any kind of deterrent. The most obvious foreseeable consequence is that would-be shooter will probably decide to aim at the teachers first.
Trump is slavishly following the NRA’s party line that “a good guy with a gun” is the solution to mass shootings. Clearly, however, it is not. An armed security officer was on site at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland while the shooter went on his rampage. The officer never went into the building; he later said he believed the shooter was outside the school, not inside. Additional officers who arrived quickly also did not enter.
Where are the shots coming from? How many shooters are there? Is that an assailant pounding on the classroom door, or a potential victim in imminent peril? The idea that teachers are going to be able to answer these questions more quickly and accurately than well-trained security personnel is ludicrous.
In gunfights, even big-city police officers who are regularly tested on their firearms proficiency miss their targets more often than they hit them. Picture the chaos of an active-shooter situation. Hear the shots, the shouts, the screams. Are teachers going to be able to focus in on an assailant despite the sensory overload? Or are they more likely to fire at innocent students? Or perhaps at each other?
Consider another predictable scenario: A high school class gets out of control, to the point where the overwhelmed teacher feels physically threatened. Will the teacher perhaps be tempted to display a loaded weapon to restore order? If so, what happens next?
The tragedy of this awful idea — and the intent — is that it diverts the gun violence debate away from measures that could actually have an impact. Chief among them would be a ban on the military-style assault rifles that have become the mass shooter’s weapon of choice. Trump is too scared of the NRA’s wrath to dare mention this common-sense, life-saving step.
Incredibly, the president has even backed away from the no-brainer idea — newly enacted by the state of Florida — of raising the minimum age for at least some gun purchases from 18 to 21. He supported such a move until the NRA slapped his little hand.
Forming a school safety commission under hapless Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is like consigning the issue to a gaggle of geese. Slightly toughening background checks and banning bump stocks hardly amount to incremental progress. Sorry, students. Trump has wimped out.
Eugene Robinson’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.