Trump and the NRA Are Trying to Distract You

Following the Parkland school shooting, this country’s pattern for how we respond to these horrific events has shifted. Over the years we’ve watched as Republicans simply sent their “thoughts and prayers” and told us that it was too soon to politicize the tragedy. After Democrats revived talk about common sense gun measures for a couple of days, everyone simply moved on.

Thanks primarily to the courage and intelligence of surviving students from Stoneman Douglas High School, the topic of how to stop school shootings is still being discussed almost two weeks later. Based on our history, that is extraordinary. Do you think that perhaps that has Trump and the NRA nervous?

One thing they’ve done in response is to throw out the ridiculous suggestion of arming teachers. Since Trump brought it up at his so-called “listening session,” we’ve all been focused on documenting what a bad idea it is. Meanwhile, discussions about what might actually work to prevent the epidemic of mass shootings in this country have fallen by the wayside. I don’t think that’s an accident.

The calculation at work here is that something as horrific as what happened on Valentine’s Day in Florida creates the energy for change. But the opponents of common sense gun safety measures know that eventually public outrage will wane and we’ll move on to the next shinning object in the news. In the meantime, if they can use up some of that outrage in response to the idea of arming teachers, perhaps they can wait it out.

In other words, this whole debate is an attempt to distract us from real solutions. Trump and Republicans continued the effort yesterday.

President Trump stopped short Monday of a full-throated endorsement of any legislative proposals to tighten gun restrictions while lawmakers insisted that the fate of any changes lay in the president’s hands.

While Senate leaders explored the possibility of passing a modest improvement to the national background-check system for firearm buyers, House action was uncertain, and Trump again turned attention away from guns and toward the various security breakdowns that preceded the Feb. 14 rampage inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 dead.

What we’re hearing at the national level is “arm the teachers,” “blame security breakdowns,” “reinstate mental institutions,” “be very afraid of the coming socialist tyranny,” “the media loves mass shootings,” etc. All of those are meant to trigger outrage that is a distraction from the issue at hand: common sense gun safety measures.

There are two things that will be necessary if any real change is possible. First of all, it is important to combat stupid ideas, but we have to keep our eyes on the prize of what will actually work. There is a growing consensus on things like this:

  • Ban assault weapons like the AR-15
  • Universal background checks for the purchase of a gun
  • Institute national red flag laws
  • Fund the CDC to study gun violence as a public health issue

Secondly, organizing to achieve those goals will have to continue long after the outrage subsides and cable news moves on. Perhaps the most important step will be whether or not voters prioritize common sense gun safety measures in the upcoming midterm elections. That is because Kenneth Vogel is absolutely right.

When/if politicians begin to worry about losing their jobs for failing to support gun safety measures, the door will begin to open for change to happen. We’ve got to be in this one for the long haul.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.