by Steven Hale
Sadly, the world did not end on Dec. 21, thus allowing the executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, Wayne LaPierre, to unveil his dystopian vision of a post-Newtown America in which our safety, and that of our school children, is ensured by perpetual standoff.
"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," LaPierre said at a press conference last Friday, the NRA's first public response to the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School a week earlier that left 20 children, six school administrators and the gunman's mother dead.
LaPierre blamed gun violence on just about everything but guns — video games, movies, President Barack Obama, hurricanes (potentially), and even the "nation's refusal to create an active national database of the mentally ill." He then offered the NRA's contribution to this National Conversation we've been having: A proposal to put an armed guard in every school.
Sound familiar? In this week's print edition of The City Paper, Andrea Zelinski reports that Tennessee legislators are characteristically ahead of the curve when it comes to expanding access to guns.
Their idea of reasonable legislation is to ensure every school has someone in on the premises trained and carrying a gun or give teachers or other staff the ability to carry on campus if their school lacks someone else who does.
“All back through civilized history, there’s been a danger to children,” said East Tennessee state Sen. Frank Niceley, who plans to file one such bill. “We don’t have to worry about saber-toothed tigers any more, but there’s always a danger for children.”
Since 2009, Tennessee has led the country in the number of gun laws it’s passed. Most make it easier to carry and own a gun, while a few others make firearms harder to track.
But by and large, few on Capitol Hill think the brutal school slaying of 20 first-graders and six school staff in Newtown, Conn., will disrupt the pace of expanding gun laws here.
In the past four years, the newly emboldened Republican-led legislature expanded the state’s gun laws. The most noteworthy was in 2010 when the state allowed handgun-carry permit holders to take their weapon with them into a bar on the condition they don’t drink. In 2009, handgun-carry permit holders were allowed to go armed into more than 50 state parks and 80 natural state areas.
The idea of allowing teachers to carry their weapons to school, or training and arming them — a proposal which Niceley has apparently backed away from, but is still being pushed by state Sen. Stacey Campfield — was met with opposition from House Speaker Beth Harwell and Gov. Bill Haslam.
Putting aside the practical merits of the proposal to place an armed guard in every school — many have noted that an armed officer was stationed at Columbine High School when two gunmen killed 12 and injured 21 others there, while others have noted that the officer almost certainly saved lives by engaging the shooters — the idea is not unprecedented.
In Nashville, and in many other school districts across the state, middle and high schools already have at least one police officer stationed on campus. When it comes to expanding that practice to cover all schools, and include lower grades, the question is one of funding. And on that matter, Haslam has been non-committal.
On a national level, the NRA's proposal would seem to be a non-starter — for political and logistical reasons — and one suspects LaPierre and the NRA know this. Expect them to continue grandstanding about the idea, successfully distracting from talk of tightening gun-control laws, and attempting to run out the clock, waiting for the National Discussion to lose its focus and shift to wow did you know The Bachelor starts up again next month?
"We guard our gold with arms, children with good intentions. Our gold is safe, while much less precious," he writes. "The Gates of Heaven and Hell are similarly guarded, but entry is by choice. Yet our schools are defenseless, when attendance is mandatory."
The Scene was unable to confirm the presence of armed security in the afterlife.