Wednesday the President rolled out his four-point plan for protecting children from gun violence. Timed with the release, the House Democratic Steering Committee held a hearing in which select advocates made their case for gun control. The hearing exemplified much of what's wrong with the current gun debate.
One of the invited speakers who offered testimony was Newtown Superintendent Janet Robinson. Robinson gave a moving account of the shooting which personalized some of the victims, especially the school's principal, who she imagined being outraged that anyone would bring a gun into her school and threaten her kids.
Many of those in attendance were in tears, especially when Robinson touched on the deaths of 20 defenseless 1st graders. But as the testimony led to question and answers in the second half of the two hour hearing, there were signs that politics and emotion were overruling sense and, in some cases, the truth.
Rep. David Scott asked Superintendent Robinson how she felt about the NRA plan to "arm the teachers, put armed personnel in each of the schools." Right away we have a factual problem with this question. There have been proposals in some states to allow teachers to be armed during school, but that was not part of the NRA proposal offered by Wayne LaPierre. In fact, LaPierre's proposal had two parts. The first part was to place "a police officer in every school."
I call on Congress today 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.
Longer term, LaPierre wanted to create a model for school safety led by Asa Hutchison which could include trained security to help monitor schools. Hutchison made clear that armed guards would be "a decision to be made by parents at the local level." He did not propose arming acting teachers or principals as part of this plan.
In her response to this and another related question, Superintendent Robinson admitted that the idea of cops in schools was something the community demanded, at least in the short term:
Parents are looking to see that the police are out at the street. They want to make sure there's a police car out there and police in the building. Parents are coming in demanding that there be SROs [armed police] in all of our elementary schools, you know, which we didn't have. People seem to need that.
Robinson went on to say that what she needed from Washington was more long term support "in those visible signs of security, so we can keep going." In other words, Robinson (and parents in Newtown) want the same thing the NRA proposed--cops in schools for the immediate and probably the medium term.
Did anyone in the room understand that Robinson had just endorsed the NRA proposal? Seemingly not. In fact, Robinson herself immediately turned her attention to Rep. Scott's question about arming teachers. She gave a minute long reply to the effect that "teachers are teachers" not guards and highlighted the absurdity of the idea by saying "How many little kids could get injured with inexperienced elementary teachers walking around with guns? It's not even logical."
What's truly not logical is a Congressional hearing in which a professional is asked to testify before Congress, sides with the NRA proposal without knowing it, then castigates the same group for a proposal they didn't make. Some expert.
But it doesn't end there. Next you get stories like this one headlined "Newtown school superintendent rejects NRA proposal to arm teacher." Here's how Rep. Scott's misleading question gets translated and further corrupted for this story:
Robinson flat-out rejected the NRA proposal to place armed guards in
every classroom in America, noting that the weapon used in the Sandy
Hook shooting was a semi-automatic. "They didn't have a chance," she
Did the NRA proposed armed guards in every classroom? It wasn't in LaPierre's statement or Hutchison's speech. If someone somewhere proposed it, it certainly wasn't the thrust of the proposal they did make which, as we've seen, was placing cops in schools.
Does the author of the Yahoo news piece know what a semi-automatic is? For that matter, does Janet Robinson? In what may be the most embarrassing bit of her testimony, she said, "Had he [Lanza] had a single shot or, you know--I know nothing about--but a gun that could not, a gun that had all that ammunition--maybe Dawn could have stopped him." This is the same person who moments earlier said it was insensitive to suggest the same principal could have stopped Lanza with a gun. Now she's envisioning a scenario where Lanza has a gun with only one bullet. Which assertion is more ignorant?
It's understandable that people want to see action after the terrible loss at Sandy Hook elementary. Tears are appropriate as well. But when sorrow, misinformation, and ignorance mix together at the highest level of Congress and the media, they become a toxic mess that poisons the public debate. The NRA, the parents of Newtown, the President, and the rest of the country believe armed cops in school is a good idea. Democrats and the media who insist on twisting this basic fact for political reasons aren't helping anyone.