The NRA held a press conference today detailing their plans to prevent more mass shootings in the United States. Mass shootings now happen with some regularity, and your standard run-of-the-mill shootings where only one or two or three people are hit happen daily. As of posting this, 97 people have been killed since the Newtown killings (I’m sure that stat will be out of date in minutes, so check out this live tally). The NRA’s response? Put armed security guards in schools, and create a national database of mentally ill people (what this database will be used for is unclear). A few thoughts:
-There actually were armed security guards at Columbine high school when that mass shooting went down. Two of them. As it turns out, two dudes with handguns are no match for a dude who is wearing bulletproof clothing and wielding multiple weapons that spray a rapid fire of bullets.
-Schools are not the only problem. Mass shootings occur in movie theaters, shopping malls, and basically everywhere large groups of people congregate. Are we just going to arm everyone everywhere? (NRA: “Yes.”).
-The NRA is unclear if they want armed guards or armed police officers in schools, but if we’re talking cops, then we’re also talking several billion dollars in taxpayer money to cover this plan.
-Police officers are in many schools in the country, and not with good results. The psychological impact of turning a learning environment into a place where police roam the halls is pronounced; it doesn’t make students feel safer, it makes them scared. And it means that students are regularly arrested. In New York, the NYPD are in many schools, and they arrest an average of 11 students every day. A full 95 percent of the arrested students are black and Latino, and their arrests take them out of school and put them in the juvenile “justice” system. Kids are hurt, not helped, by increasing policing in schools.
-Y’all know that cops kill people pretty regularly, right?
-The NRA plan puts loaded weapons in schools. What could go wrong with hundreds of curious kids (and many rebellious and anti-authoritarian adolescents) in an enclosed space with a few loaded weapons nearby?
-Other people have suggested that we arm teachers. A week ago, the right was painting teachers as union thugs; now we want to give them guns on the taxpayer dime. I happen to like teachers quite a bit, but teachers are human beings and frankly some of them are violent and shitty or simply irresponsible, and I don’t particularly want all of them walking around school grounds with a gun on their hip. What are the chances that no teacher ever leaves their gun unattended, or that no student manages to steal the gun, or that the gun never goes off by accident, or that no teacher mistakenly perceives a threat that isn’t there? What are the chances that this plan goes off without a hitch in every single school across America?
-Hey remember Fort Hood? The shooter there was an Army psychiatrist on a military base. Two points: (1) He was a psychiatrist and not a “crazy person” and he still shot up a bunch of people, and (2) he was on a military base surrounded by people who had guns and knew how to use ’em and he still managed to kill 13 people and wound 29 others.
-The world isn’t a cop show, and there aren’t simply “bad guys” who kill people and “good guys” who defend them. There are a lot of “good guys” who accidentally shoot people or misperceive threats or leave their guns unattended or forget to put the safety lock on. The very presence of a hand-held weapon that is specifically designed to kill people with minimal effort significantly ups the chances that someone will, indeed, get killed.
-The NRA has also suggested making the armed school guards “volunteers.” Now what kinds of people do you think are going to volunteer to play police officer if it means they can feel important and wield a loaded weapon? Dwight Schrute and George Zimmerman.
-The NRA didn’t specify what, exactly, a national database of mentally ill people would be used for, or how “mentally ill” would even be defined (if you go to therapy, are you “mentally ill”? If you take medication for depression or anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder? If you have a developmental issue like autism?). But when it comes to mental illness and violent crime, we know that mentally ill people are significantly more likely to be the victims of crime than the perpetrators, and that generally mentally ill people are no more likely than “sane” people to commit crimes. A small subset of mentally ill people with particular disorders (severe and untreated schizophrenia with psychosis, major depression or bi-polar mood disorder) are more likely to commit violent crimes if their illnesses are untreated. When those individuals get appropriate treatment and intervention, their propensity toward violence decreases. A national mental health database would almost surely increase the stigma already associated with mental illness, making it less likely that people with all sorts of mental health issues will seek treatment. Even worse, such a database could very easily be used by insurance companies to refuse to cover mentally ill people, making it even less likely that they would be able to afford treatment. And such a database could be used by employers to discriminate against the many people who have mental health problems but are managing those issues. I am sure the NRA will promise us all “privacy,” but what is the point of a national mental illness database if not to violate the privacy of the mentally ill and ensure that they are further marginalized?
-The NRA plan puts more guns in schools, glorifies the individuals who want to play cop and fetishize authority, places more stigma on mental health, and makes it more difficult for mentally ill people to get treatment. What could go wrong?
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