The biggest American political story of last week unquestionably was the repercussions of the Valentine’s Day school shooting in Florida. While there is a lot there you can still color me skeptical. I can’t cover every aspect in a single article but I’d appreciate the opportunity to explore some of them with you.
Last week President Trump held what was billed as a listening session at the White House. It was a performance where he mostly nodded and followed his cue card turning in a performance worthy of the wannabe actor he is, (in his mind star). One of the few times he said much was to reinforce the idea of arming teachers. This is an old right wing/NRA talking point that is so insane it doesn’t warrant lengthy refuting. In my education (similar to Trump’s, except apparently unlike him I paid attention) I was trained to make cost/benefit decisions. That technique also served me well during my coaching career (where the wins and losses can’t be spun). The likely losses from arming teachers far outweigh any improbable benefits; and that is far from the complete rebuttal.
The only other action that Trump has taken is to instruct executive branch agencies to explore regulating bump stocks and possibly other add ones. Talk about fighting the last war and what took you so long. In 2013 under the leadership of a President who actually cared about mass shootings more than NRA dollars, those same agencies determined that they lacked sufficient authority to enact and enforce similar regulations. They determined that Congress needed to pass legislation.
By passing the buck to the agencies Trump accomplished two things. He sets up the regulations for a successful court challenge which will render them null and void. That gives him the cover of saying he did something, allows him to blame the situation on the courts and importantly gives cover to Republican members of Congress by allowing them to avoid going on the record by casting votes on gun legislation. The bottom line in this scenario is that nothing changes which is exactly what the NRA wants. Not the majority of NRA members, but the gun manufacturers who are the only ones the NRA has cared about in decades.
The only measure being floated by Trump that is not out of the NRA playbook is having a mandatory age requirement of 21 to buy semi-automatic weapons. While that is certainly a positive it is such an incrementally small one as to be hardly a drop in the ocean that this problem is.
Both sides of the gun regulation debate are using this latest incident to promote their talking points. America, unlike many European countries, has a gun culture and total elimination is neither going to happen nor (in my opinion) is desirable. However, as with many other things, some regulations and restrictions are necessary to insure public safety. When we have about five percent of the global population and the majority of the mass shootings what we are currently doing certainly isn’t working.
My prediction is that, (baring one thing that I will discuss below), nothing will change. The Trump-GOP-NRA alliance will simply stall and wait for something else to get hot in the news cycle. (This is the essence of the “now is not the time” strategy). If they are forced to do something they will run it through the executive branch agencies and then wait for the court nullification. Under Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan meaningful legislation will never see the floor of both chambers. If something does somehow make it past this gauntlet it will be minor and long overdue.
The ray of hope’s genesis was in the Sunshine State. Young people have risen up. If they can expand and sustain their efforts they could be the catalyst of meaningful change. It was many of the students of my generation who brought about the end of the Vietnam War. The big unanswered question is whether this movement is sustainable.
If the students can’t help us (and we have already seen that babies being murdered is insufficient) then we are in for more tragedies. Trump’s talk of reform is empty. For proof I only ask that you look at his proposed budget which cuts funding for school security and background checks. The NRA just wants to sell guns. Their first plan would be to arm teachers and when that fails they will argue that the teachers didn’t have sufficient firepower. As we saw from the Florida incident, arming a Deputy Sherriff with a handgun against a semi-automatic weapon is like asking someone to enter a gun fight with a knife. Two Deputy Sheriffs died recently in Oregon when the perpetrators’ rounds pierced there protective body armor. If the NRA had their way teachers would be instructing their students in full SWAT gear and armament.
I have great confidence in the promise of the upcoming generation. They may help us because we certainly can’t depend on Trump, the Republicans or the NRA to keep us safe.
The current rhetoric out of the White House is meant to be cover for the Congressional Republicans and is certainly another Trump scam. That coalition about as useful as my new example of uselessness: A character reference from John Kelly.
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