The Most Cynical Response to School Shootings

At his so-called “listening session” yesterday with students and families who have been affected by school shootings, the response Trump zeroed in on was training and arming more teachers in schools. This morning, he went on a Twitter rant about it. It is a spectacularly bad idea for a whole host of reasons that even Sen. Marco Rubio seems to understand, based on his response last night at CNN’s town hall forum.

But I would like to put the idea of arming more teachers in a group of suggested responses, including those that call for more armed guards at schools, metal detectors, bullet-proof windows, and red-alert drills. Some of those things might be necessary in the short-term, but as a long-term solution to school shootings, they are the most cynical response out there and would turn our classrooms into something resembling war zones.

Perhaps I’m simply a nostalgic old-timer who remembers the day when none of those things were even contemplated. It’s not that we were free of fear-induced responses. I remember the duck and cover drills that were based on the ridiculous notion that hiding under a desk would protect us from a Soviet-launched nuclear bomb. I can only hope that one day these ideas about turning our schools into war zones due to school shootings will be met with the same derision.

The reason I call these ideas the most cynical is that they tend to assume that school shootings are simply a fact of life and that our only response is to up the ante of our defenses against them. The NRA has been so successful at focusing our attention on the “bad guy with a gun,” who can only be stopped by a “good guy with a gun,” that some people are willing to turn the whole enterprise designed to educate our kids into a defensive battlefield.

Let me say loud and clear, “that is not normal!” The best way to demonstrate that is to point out that nowhere on the planet, except for actual battlefields, is that kind of response contemplated or even necessary. The regularity of school shootings is unique to America, which means that there is nothing inherently human about taking an assault rifle into a school in order to shoot a bunch of innocent children. Crafting an entire response to the reality that it has happened too many times in this country normalizes the abnormal.

The other reason this is all so cynical is that we should have learned by now that mass shootings (which are also pretty unique to America) don’t just happen in schools. They also happen in movie theaters, parking lots, night clubs, outdoor music festivals, and yes—even churches. If turning our schools into war zones was an effective response, are we prepared to basically turn our whole country into a war zone in order to stop mass shootings? The idea isn’t simply preposterous, it is unthinkable.

Of course all of this is nothing more than a distraction from the other way in which this country is unique—the prevalence of guns. When it comes to mass shootings, the prevalence of assault rifles makes them the weapon of choice for those who want to kill the most people in the shortest amount of time. If we want to stop mass shootings, making those illegal is the only common sense solution.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.