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NRA fires wide right after Sandy Hook

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Protesters disrupted LaPierre's speech twice

National Rifle Association Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre is not a gifted public speaker. At today’s press conference—the NRA’s first statement after the Sandy Hook school massacre—LaPierre’s head bobbed distractingly as he read from his notes.

I mention this because in their account of LaPierre’s speech, Eric Lichtblau and John Cushman Jr. of the New York Times described LaPierre as “angry and combative” with a “defiant tone.” I wanted to see if these descriptions were true, so I stopped reading the Times, decided not to read any accounts of the speech at all, and then watched a video of the entire press conference. Instead of seeing a combative man, I saw a man for whom the word “glib” doesn’t exist. I also saw a man oblivious to the $4 billion cost of a plan he was proposing (more on that in a bit).

The first thing I noticed, though, was a man whose version of a persuasive speech was so flawed that I would expect more from an eighth-grader. Middle school students are taught (or should be taught) that compromise is an essential ingredient of a persuasive essay. You acknowledge the other side has points worth addressing: some of them very good and worth serious consideration, or even implementation; others of the “your idea sounds good, but I disagree—and here’s why.” Even bad ideas should be politely dismissed.

LaPierre delivered none of that today. He blamed random mass shootings on violent video games, on bloody movies, on the bloodthirsty media—on anything but guns. In fact, he spent so much time bashing the media that it began to sound like his strategy was to hammer the “media: bad” idea so many times that it could be turned into truth through sheer repetition. He did everything but accuse reporters of buying the guns and bullets.

LaPierre’s opening act of “blame the messenger” took up seven of his speech’s 10 pages—a mélange of prevarication ineptly designed to distract people from the legitimate idea that maybe the availability of guns also has something to do with school shootings. He never addressed this point, which was about as predictable as the fact that the world indeed did not end today, despite Mayan prophecy. Instead, at the top of page 8, LaPierre called on Congress to “act immediately, to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every school—and to do it now, to make sure that blanket of safety is in place when our children return to school in January.”

If that idea were the Titanic, it would have sunk immediately after leaving the pier. The National Center for Education Statistics reports there were about 99,000 public schools in America in 2009-10, the last year for which the center has statistics. LaPierre is suggesting armed guards can be stationed in all of those schools in less than two weeks.

In giving a persuasive speech, the speaker should want to sound credible instead of sounding like someone whose version of reality is as credible as a plan to raise the Titanic with dental floss. LaPierre thinks armed guards can be hired in less than two weeks during the holiday season. I suggest that by Monday night, America should deploy mutant reindeer that really can fly.

As for the cost of a guard-per-school program, how much skin does the NRA expect to have in the game? LaPierre’s speech said the NRA will provide training expertise, knowledge, dedication and “resources,” which do not appear to be resources of the financial variety.

So, just for curiosity’s sake, let’s do the math to see how much an armed-guard-in-every-school program would cost. For starters, there are about 99,000 schools in America. Are all of those schools so small that one guard will be enough? Probably not, so let’s assume about 1 percent of those schools will need two guards. That brings us to an even 100,000 guards.

Now, picture yourself as a trained, proficient, law-abiding citizen (a category into which I put all but a sliver of a fraction of gun owners). How much are you going to want to earn for being singlehandedly responsible for defending 500 students: $25,000 a year? $35,000 a year? $40,000?

Using those figures, the cost for implementing LaPierre’s plan ranges from $2.5 billion to $4 billion. This is in an era of widespread aid cuts to schools—cuts that have resulted in larger class sizes, fewer teachers, fewer school nurses and counselors, and fewer resources, extracurricular activities, and programs. And now LaPierre proposes that Congress—which can’t agree on the phase of the moon—come up with $4 billion in less than two weeks. Yes, that will happen, and I will go bowling on Christmas Eve with Pippa Middleton.

As long as we’re in crazy ideas territory, let’s pretend the money can be found. Will it pay for 100,000 safety officers whose aim is true? Consider this: In late August, a shooting occurred at the Empire State Building. Two people died; nine were wounded. All nine were hit by stray police bullets, fragments of bullets, or ricochets, the New York Times reported.

One might think New York City police officers are well-trained in handling firearms, given the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Yet in a fast-moving situation on a crowded street, police officers whose lives or deaths can depend on their shooting skills managed to wound nine bystanders. Enough said.

I had hoped the Sandy Hook tragedy would prompt the NRA to reconsider its unwavering stance on firearms restrictions. Instead, LaPierre came out with a proposal so ludicrous that it’s fair to ask whether he cares at all about public safety. We waited a week for this? Armed guards in public schools?

Well then, sir, what do we do about shopping malls, movie theaters and college campuses?


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 22nd, 2012 02:32 am (UTC)
Chris and I were talking about this today. The cost of this ludicrous proposal was one of three issues we had. The other 2?

1) We are turning schools into reverse prisons. Seriously, an armed officer? Let's call it for what it is--a warden. Happy learning!

2) These armed officers can be made up of police officers (because they have nothing else to do), military personnel (because they don't have enough stress or worse, PTSD, and they can easily adapt to a high-stress position), or trained civilians (because George Zimmerman is a model for all of us).

My favorite suggestion has been to arm teachers and administrators. Could you imagine me packing a gun? Dr. Matz carrying a Colt? Sr. Margaret with a Remington? Let's stop assuming that the public WANTS more guns.

Dec. 22nd, 2012 02:35 am (UTC)
I can just see you doing Clint's "make my day" speech.
Dec. 22nd, 2012 04:05 pm (UTC)
It is hard to fathom the layers of stupidity in this man's speech. I hope this backfires on him and the NRA in congress. One can hope. I'm not packing heat to school no matter what he says.
Dec. 22nd, 2012 04:26 pm (UTC)
Wrong time, wrong speech, wrong guy. It would have been easy to write twice as much.
Dec. 22nd, 2012 04:44 pm (UTC)
Good grief. This is it, the best they could do? I need to start living in a pretty pink bubble that will keep at bay all nonsense and foolishness.

One might think New York City police officers are well-trained in handling firearms, given the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Yet in a fast-moving situation on a crowded street, police officers whose lives or deaths can depend on their shooting skills managed to wound nine bystanders. Enough said. Egads.
Dec. 22nd, 2012 05:54 pm (UTC)
They would have been better off staying silent.
Dec. 22nd, 2012 04:59 pm (UTC)
What is most disturbing about LaPierre's view is that NRA membership will lap up his message and if you listen to some Republican Pols they reiterate the same message. Like Tea Party rhetoric the argument is always beside the point, never on point. Tuesday afternoon, I had two conversations of note. One was with an elementary principal discussing the arming of school administrators. His take was he would not do it. The liability of an armed educator is too great for any school district to absorb. He personally feels educators are supposed to turn on the lights in a student's mind, not put them out. My last conversation was with a boy of 12 with a developmental disability I met at a pizza party I host every year for three classes of developmentally disabled students and my youth group, He asked me if I had heard of the shootings(I found out later his teacher had discussed the incident with the class to calm any fears), I replied I had . He said,"Do you know what my job is?" I said, "No, what is it?" he told me, " My job is to come to school everyday and show the world I am not afraid!
Ironic that child with a brain that does not function in a typical manner can grasp that living in fear is no way to live.
Dec. 22nd, 2012 05:53 pm (UTC)
How do you explain to a 6-year-old that an armed guard is needed in school to keep her or him safe? Talk about perpetuating a culture of fear.
Dec. 22nd, 2012 07:15 pm (UTC)
Virginia Tech has their own police department.
Fort Hood is an army base.
Columbine had armed guards on duty.
Dec. 22nd, 2012 08:56 pm (UTC)
Stop clouding the issue with facts.
Dec. 24th, 2012 02:34 am (UTC)
Great points - this should be a standard answer we all use when responding to any post, online blog, facebook status, etc. that thinks armed guards in schools is a good idea.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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