• We don’t even want public-school teachers teaching our kids.
• Historically, the National Rifle Association has derived its political power from two sources. The first is the broad popularity of gun rights, which is sufficient now to ensure that if the NRA disappeared tomorrow it would be swiftly replaced with a similar outfit. The second is that it has retained its singular focus on gun rights. If, in the future, its influence begins to wane, it will be because it has begun to lose that focus. Consider, by way of example, Wayne LaPierre’s speech to CPAC in the wake of the Parkland massacre. LaPierre was sure to make his case against further gun regulation. But mixed in along with that case were scathing references to “socialists,” condemnations of the Democratic party and the media, and a defense of President Trump against the FBI. Were the head of the GOP to make such a case, it would be entirely appropriate. For the NRA it is not. One need not be a fan of Trump, or a Republican, to support the right to keep and bear arms; if polling is to be believed, self-described “liberals” are by no means unified on the question of guns. Ensuring that they do not become so should be a high priority for the NRA.
• It’s a shocking statistic, and it went viral: The Parkland massacre was the 18th school shooting of 2018. Bernie Sanders and Bill de Blasio tweeted it, and the New York Times, HuffPost, and ABC News ran with the number. A week after the Florida shooting, it had morphed: Politico reported that there had been “18 mass shootings this year alone.” The only problem was that the stat was completely wrong. There have not been 18 school shootings in 2018 — nor have there been 18 “mass shootings” nor 18 “massacres” nor 18 of anything like what happened at Stoneman Douglas High School. The stat originated with Everytown for Gun Safety, the gun-control group founded by former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. The group’s count is wildly inflated, including everything from an adult who committed suicide in the parking lot of a long-closed school to gun violence near the campus of California State University–San Bernardino to a school police officer’s accidentally discharging his weapon. Depending on how you define them, there have been fewer than five events that could qualify as school shootings, including Parkland. That should be bad enough.
• In the aftermath of Parkland, one idea seems to have garnered bipartisan support: raising the age at which Americans may purchase rifles from 18 to 21. President Trump has signaled his support, as has Senator Marco Rubio. Florida governor Rick Scott, too, made it clear that he would sign such a measure if it hit his desk. Given that the perpetrator was 19, one can understand this instinct; one always wishes to go back in time and prevent attacks before they occur. In practice, though, such a reform would be only superficially useful. Because they are hard to conceal, rifles are used extremely rarely in murders and in crime — less than are knives, hammers, and hands and feet. They are, however, used constantly for hunting, including by hundreds of thousands of Americans aged between 18 and 21. Moreover, it would be peculiar for the federal government to signal that Americans in this age range may vote, be drafted, start a family, buy property, and pay taxes, but not exercise the right to keep and bear a type of weapon that is used in around 2.5 percent of gun-related homicides. Tragedy makes bad law.
• Rick Gates, deputy chairman of the Trump presidential campaign when his business partner, Paul Manafort, ran it, pled guilty to charges of defrauding the United States and lying to the FBI. It was the climax of a busy week in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, featuring an indictment of Russian nationals for election interference, a guilty plea for lying to investigators from a lawyer tied to Gates and Manafort, and a new indictment against Gates and Manafort, adding tax-evasion and bank-fraud charges to prior allegations of laundering $75 million while working for a Kremlin-backed Ukrainian party. Gates’s plea deal obliges him to cooperate with prosecutors. Mueller is squeezing Manafort. The prosecutor’s objective seems twofold. First, he wants to get Manafort to talk because Manafort appears to be the key to determining whether, as seems decreasingly likely, there was corrupt collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Second, Mueller might be trying to justify the decision by the Obama administration — particularly the Justice Department and the FBI, two institutions Mueller long served — to investigate the Trump campaign. While President Trump would not be accused of collusion, his judgment would be faulted for bringing Manafort and Gates, and their extensive ties to Kremlin agents, into his campaign. We shall see.
• Since the indicted Russian nationals are highly unlikely ever to stand trial in the United States, one wonders whether one of Mueller’s principal purposes was to map out for the public one aspect of Russia’s election meddling in 2016. The picture that Mueller painted was equal parts malice and ineptitude. Russians allegedly sought to inflame American passions online (and, for a time, to help Trump defeat Hillary Clinton), but they brought meager financial resources to the online effort and appeared to work only with “unwitting” Americans. And there’s no evidence that Russian social-media activity made any material impact on the outcome. We welcome the disclosure, but the magnitude of the Russian effort shouldn’t be exaggerated.
• The House Intelligence Committee released a memo prepared by Adam Schiff (D., Calif.) meant to rebut the famous Nunes memo, the handiwork of Devin Nunes (R., Calif.), the committee’s chairman. The dueling memos are about the FBI’s application to surveil low-level Trump aide Carter Page, and the beginnings of the Russia investigation. As our own Andrew McCarthy has ably explained, the Schiff memo actually does much to corroborate the charges in the Nunes document. It confirms that the FBI relied heavily on the dossier compiled by an investigator trying to dig up dirt on Trump for the Clinton campaign, Christopher Steele. And in attempting to demonstrate that the FBI disclosed the partisan source of the information to the court, the Schiff memo instead shows how turgid, misleading, and incomplete the purported disclosure was (the FBI appears to have gone out of its way to avoid mentioning the Clinton campaign). As we’ve said before, there is still much we don’t know about this episode, and the only way to get a fuller picture is for the Department of Justice to release as much of the underlying material as possible.
• Presidential spouses and family members have been intruding into politics since Abigail Adams cheered on the Alien and Sedition Acts. Bill Clinton took it to a new level, giving Hillary responsibility for reforming health care and ultimately backing her two presidential runs. The Trump clan so far has activated itself in the second generation: son-in-law Jared Kushner enjoying an interim security clearance for access to high-level information; son Donald Jr. giving speeches in India while promoting luxury development projects. What’s inevitable about this is that blood is thicker than civics; what’s wrong about this is that we vote for John Adams or Donald Trump, not their families. The latter message may be getting resonance: The president said he would let John Kelly make the call on Kushner’s clearance — which has now been downgraded — and Donald Jr. did not give the policy-heavy address in India he was allegedly planning. Good.
• Ronan Farrow’s latest article in The New Yorker is about Karen McDougal, a former Playmate of the Year whom Donald Trump allegedly met at a party at the Playboy Mansion in 2006, igniting a months-long affair (Trump was already married to Melania at the time). In 2016, America Media, Inc., publishers of the National Enquirer, paid McDougal $150,000 for rights to her story, which it buried (AMI’s CEO, David Pecker, is a friend of Trump’s). The White House dismisses Farrow’s account as “an old story that is just more fake news.” President Trump would have to do all that he is accused of having done to catch up with the misbehavior of some of his predecessors (LBJ, JFK, FDR). But times have changed, and the glitzy self-promoter who prized his louche reputation is now a man in a different arena. Career pols know the rules; they get scrutinized, and often caught as they ascend the ladder. The latest Trump tabloid story is one more consequence of seeking a party leader outside the box.
• The annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is a combination of real-world pundits and politicians, and wild things out of Maurice Sendak. One of the former, our own Mona Charen, spoke some stern words at a panel at the most recent conclave. She blasted the inclusion on the program of Marion Le Pen, granddaughter of the odious National Front founder Jean-Marie, and expressed disappointment with “people on our side, for being hypocrites about sexual harassers and abusers of women who are in our party,” citing Roy Moore and unnamed persons “who are sitting in the White House” (could be Rob Porter, who sat there until recently; could be you-know-who). For this she was lustily booed, and escorted to the green room and her Uber by anxious security guards. Good for Charen, and shame on the noisemakers. Two roads diverged in a right-wing wood. Which will CPAC take?
• The #Resistance lost touch with reality in February, after Attorney General Jeff Sessions mentioned the “Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement” during an address to an association of sheriffs. That there is an Anglo-American legal tradition is a commonplace in legal and historical circles, and Sessions invoked it appropriately, noting that the role of sheriff is unique to Britain and the United States. The phrase quickly inspired wild charges of “white supremacy” and “exclusionary rhetoric.” This reaction, alas, was not limited to the fever swamps. Among others, Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii proposed that the term had been deliberately chosen to “pit Americans against each other” and asked whether anybody had ever heard the phrase used “in a sentence.” Had he done a little research, Schatz might have discovered that the answer to this is “Yes,” and that his fellow Hawaiian, President Barack Obama, employed such constructs regularly when discussing institutions and legal principles common to Britain and America. This is your brain on partisanship.
• Every social movement, it has been observed, has three stages: It begins as a movement, becomes a business, and finally degenerates into a racket. (A note to pedants: No, not quite Eric Hoffer.) If you’re wondering which stage the so-called alt-right is at, consider that Milo Yiannopoulos, the Scott Thorson of the 2016 cycle, was last seen hawking dietary supplements on InfoWars. But if Yiannopoulos has made it to the third stage in record time, bear in mind that he had the advantage of starting at the second.
• Four immigration amendments died in the Senate, with none getting the 60 votes needed to defeat filibusters. The amendment closest to the Trump administration’s position got only 39 votes. Republicans should try again to pass a bill that improves enforcement of the immigration laws and provides legal status to illegal immigrants who were brought here as children and know no other home. That means temporarily dropping cuts to legal immigration, a good administration idea but too heavy a lift in Congress. Legalize a strictly defined subset of illegal immigrants, require employers to use E-Verify to make sure new hires aren’t illegal immigrants, and call it a day.
• When the Trump administration announced that it will unveil a system of steel tariffs in April, the market spoke: Shares in steel producers such as Nucor soared, while shares in major U.S.-based manufacturers such as Ford and Caterpillar sank. The Trump administration should listen to the markets and bear in mind that the steel-consuming industries represent a much larger share of U.S. manufacturing output and employment than does the steel-producing industry. It won’t be the Chinese who pay the price for Trump’s steel tariffs (the U.S. consumes relatively little Chinese steel), but the workers, shareholders, and customers of American companies engaged in the business of turning steel into useful things such as cars and buildings. As Bloomberg’s David Fickling points out, the European and Japanese steel industries saw substantial reductions in their capacities in response to diminished demand after the 2008–09 recession, while the U.S. was practically alone in the world in seeing no such retrenchment. As a result, U.S. steel output is at less than 80 percent of production capacity, which makes operating profitably difficult. There is no tariff — even the absurd 53 percent one contemplated by the Trump administration — that is going to take away the need for a painful restructuring in the U.S. steel industry. Best to face reality and get on with it.
• Encouraging young women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math — “STEM” for short — has been a widespread cause for the last few years. But a new study published in Psychological Science finds that the more equality between the sexes a country exhibits, the lower the proportion of women in STEM. In countries where women have few opportunities, they turn to these fields. Where they have more opportunities, they do what they want to do — which usually isn’t STEM. “The upshot of this research is neither especially feminist nor especially sad,” concludes The Atlantic’s write-up. Funny how often that happens.
• The supreme court of Pennsylvania threw out the redistricting map that the state’s Republican legislature had passed. It was too skewed toward the Republicans, the court noted, pointing out that hundreds of random simulations had generated few maps more favorable to them. It then drew its own map — which was more favorable to the Democrats than nearly all the simulations. It would still likely lead to Democrats’ having a lower proportion of the state’s congressional seats than their proportion of the vote. That’s a function of geography, and not unique to the state: Democratic votes are so concentrated in urban areas that normal methods of line-drawing, for example ones that prize compact districts, will tend to their disadvantage. The state’s high court is implicitly treating statewide proportional representation as the ideal a map should approach. The U.S. Supreme Court is essentially being asked to do the same thing in a pending case. But our system is based on geographic districts, not proportional representation. Courts should rewrite neither district lines nor our Constitution.
• Mitt Romney has declared his candidacy for the Utah Senate seat that Orrin Hatch is vacating, and unless the end times occur between now and November, he should win in a walk. Ideally it would be nice to see an up-and-comer like Representative Mia Love in the Senate (though relative to the 83-year-old Hatch, the 70-year-old Romney is a stripling). Romney’s political career has been hobbled by a tendency to wobble: After flaying Donald Trump throughout 2016, he dined with him at year’s end, hoping to become secretary of state. Withal Romney is a man of ability, intelligence, and character — the opposite of the Moores and Nehlens that the Bannons of this world wanted to unleash on the GOP. He will make a welcome addition to the Senate, and to the ranks of Republican officeholders.
• Eric Greitens, a Republican, was elected governor of Missouri in 2016, running just after having an affair. His mistress told her own husband, on tape, that Greitens had taken compromising pictures of her and threatened to blackmail her if she ever talked. The governor admitted the affair but denied the threat. He has been indicted for secretly taking the photo anyway: It’s arguably an invasion of privacy under a state statute. Impeachment is under consideration. The least reckless course now would be to resign, which is no doubt why he is resisting it.
• The California Democratic-party convention in San Diego failed to endorse Senator Dianne Feinstein in her bid for a fifth term. Feinstein won 37 percent of the vote, compared with 54 percent for state-senate leader Kevin de León (60 percent would have given de León the party’s nod). The two will face off in a June primary. Feinstein has a huge war chest. But she stumbled, thanks to age (she is 84, de León 51) and ideology. Feinstein belongs to a tier of Democratic elder statesmen, including Nancy Pelosi, Jerry Brown, Steny Hoyer, Joe Biden, John Kerry, and Hillary Clinton. All are white and liberal, with occasional deviations (Feinstein is the most security-conscious of the lot). Below them bubbles a cauldron of identity politics, which better reflects the party’s nature. (Bernie Sanders somewhat bridges the gap, to the degree that socialists count as an identity group.) Democrats are caught between a sense of who they are and an intermittent fear that embracing their true selves will only help reelect Donald Trump.
• In Illinois’s third congressional district, longtime incumbent Democrat Dan Lipinski is facing his first competitive primary challenge in a decade, from progressive Marie Newman, who has already earned the intense support of prominent abortion-rights groups. Lipinski has long drawn the ire of Planned Parenthood and NARAL for his near-perfect pro-life voting record, and as Democratic politicians increasingly embrace abortion-on-demand, far-left contingents have pressured party leadership to condemn anyone who doesn’t fully conform. It appears to be working. Newman has reeled in endorsements from two of Lipinski’s fellow House Democrats from Illinois, Jan Schakowsky and Luis Gutiérrez, along with New York Democratic senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Judging from internal polls, Lipinski should be able to pull out a win in the March 20 primary, but the substantial pushback on his own side of the aisle suggests the intra-party struggle to crush the last resisters on abortion could get even uglier going forward.
• Vladimir Putin is a master at rattling nerves. He has now renamed Russia’s 23rd Fighter-Aviation Regiment: It is to be called the “Tallinn Regiment.” Tallinn, of course, is the capital of Estonia. The Kremlin website said the name had been bestowed “to preserve glorious military traditions.” Estonians remember a brutal occupation — two of them, or rather three: first the Soviets, then the Nazis, then the Soviets again, for some 45 years. Putin’s Russia menaces Estonia in many ways, including cyberattacks and military feints. At least the Estonians, along with other Balts, are in no danger of growing complacent.
• “First, their villages were burned to the ground,” began an Associated Press report. “Now, Myanmar’s government is using bulldozers to literally erase them from the earth — in a vast operation rights groups say is destroying crucial evidence of mass atrocities against the nation’s ethnic Rohingya Muslim minority.” First the crime, then the cover-up. Evil is stalking Myanmar, a.k.a. Burma, and the world, despite the bulldozers, knows it.
• Nobody knows exactly what happened at Al Tabiyeh in the oil fields of eastern Syria, or if they do know, they are keeping it quiet. The base there is manned by members of the U.S.-led coalition, including special forces, anti-regime Syrians, and Kurdish People’s Protection Units. Supported by tanks, artillery, and rockets, between 300 and 500 pro-Assad fighters moved on that base, on the way ignoring several warnings. Coalition forces called for an air strike. First reports said that four Russians and 100 Syrians had been killed. Without explanation, these numbers rose over the following days. In Washington and Moscow, statements squeezed out of politicians and their spokesmen were tentative, if not irrelevant. The world is asked to believe that the Russians dead or alive were not under orders from Moscow but mercenaries enrolled in a private military company. They were running the risk of the first armed confrontation in many years between Russia and the United States.
• The Erdogan regime in Turkey had a name for its recent military offensive in Syria — an ironic name: “Operation Olive Branch.” Turkish forces fought Syrian Kurdish forces, who are a major ally of the United States against ISIS. The U.S. embassy in Ankara sits on a street that was once called Nevzat Tandogan, after a political leader of the city in the first half of the 20th century. But the Erdogan regime has renamed the street, calling it . . . “Operation Olive Branch.” Turkey is still a nominal ally of the United States — a member of NATO — but one with a twist, to put it mildly.
• China had a 22nd Amendment, so to speak: term limits on the president. Now those limits have been abolished, setting up Xi Jinping as president for life. He has accrued more personal power than anyone since Mao. He looks as unchallengeable as Putin or Erdogan. Xi Jinping has been a nightmare for advocates of liberalization. He imprisons, tortures, and kills such advocates with abandon. He has outdone his recent predecessors in this regard (and they were hardly lambs). Furthermore, Xi Jinping is determined to extend the reach of China as far across the globe as he can. We in the democracies will have to be wise, and ever vigilant.
• Two British academics, Richard Toye and Warren Dockter, have been peeping through the keyhole of Winston Churchill’s bedroom and believe they have spotted him in a compromising position with a lady not his wife. Her name is Doris Castlerosse, and she was a lady only because she’d married a peer of the realm, the Viscount Castlerossse. His lordship was a gossip-writer, her ladyship a much-practiced adventuress. Rackety people of the kind amused Churchill, and in the mid Thirties he was several times a guest in a house party on the French Riviera, and so was Doris. A photograph has them sitting on some rocks on the beach; he painted her portrait and wrote her a letter containing the words “What fun we had.” Slightly stronger evidence is a tape, recorded in 1985, on which Sir Jock Colville, Churchill’s private secretary in the war, says about his boss, “He wasn’t highly sexed and I don’t think he slipped up, except once — an affair with Doris Castlerosse.” Everyone has always accepted that Churchill was a rigorously faithful husband, but now, in Professor Richard Toye’s opinion, the tape “does change our view of the Churchills’ marriage.” One noted historian who is not going to change his view is Andrew Roberts, about to publish a biography of Churchill. The story doesn’t stack up, he says, adding that the two at the keyhole have merely made Churchill “the latest casualty of the post-Weinstein phenomenon.”
• After having been accused by various Muslim nations of weaponizing dolphins, sharks, boars, pigs, hyenas, rats, squirrels, half a dozen species of birds, and assorted insects for use in espionage, Israel has now supposedly resorted to using lizards. According to Hassan Firuzabadi, a military adviser to Iran’s supreme leader, a recent group of Western visitors (assumed to be pro-Israeli) brought along “a variety of reptile desert species like lizards, chameleons . . . [whose] skin attracts atomic waves. . . . They were nuclear spies who wanted to find out where inside the Islamic Republic of Iran we have uranium mines and where we are engaged in atomic activities.” Atomic lizards? The Israelis will stop at nothing.
• As the U.S. media covering the Winter Olympics fawned over the all-female cheerleading squad from North Korea, it turns out something much darker goes on with these women behind the scenes. According to a Bloomberg report, North Korean defectors have revealed that these women and other sports ambassadors from the country are routinely forced into sexual slavery. “They go to the central Politburo party’s events and have to sleep with the people there, even if they don’t want it,” according to one account. Another defector referred to these events as “Pleasure Squad” parties. The regime’s Olympic charm offensive will not fool anyone paying the slightest attention.
• When Mirai Nagasu, an American figure skater, landed a triple axel at the Pyeongchang Olympics, Bari Weiss, a New York Times opinion-section editor notable for not being another down-the-line liberal, fired off a tweet. “Immigrants: they get the job done,” she wrote, quoting the musical Hamilton. A potential problem: Nagasu is not an immigrant; the daughter of immigrants from Japan, she was born in California. Yet a social-media mob and some of Weiss’s colleagues deemed the missive not saccharine, nor clumsy, but — outlandishly — a ghastly racist sin. “I felt that tweet denied Mirai her full citizenship just as the Internment did,” a New York Times employee reportedly wrote in an internal company chatroom. Leave it to a figure skater to handle the situation with more grace: Nagasu told reporters she took no offense.
• Team Reject, skip John Shuster calls it. He led the U.S. men’s Olympic curling team to a poor finish at the 2014 Winter Olympics and was cut from the training program run by the sport’s national governing body. So was his Olympic teammate John Landsteiner. They recruited a few more outcast curlers to form their own team, or rink, which won the U.S. Olympic trials last year. Sweet comeback, that, until they collapsed at Pyeongchang last month, going 2–4 in pool play and facing elimination against the defending Olympic champions, Canada. Improbably, the Rejects beat their northern neighbors and a few days later found themselves in the final, against the heavily favored Swedes. Final score: U.S.A. 10, Sweden 7. The Swedish curlers and the Yanks are friends — a couple of the former had gone to a wedding of one of the latter — in an event that gets high marks for sportsmanship. Gold-medal Olympian Shuster returns to his part-time job at a sporting-goods store. The rules of curling may remain mysterious to most Americans, but they just got a crash course in its culture. It’s a model of the Olympic spirit.
• It’s the morning after at Evergreen State College, and there’s plenty of cleaning up to do. Last spring, radicals at the Olympia, Wash., institution held a “Day of Absence,” on which white students, faculty, and employees were instructed not to come to campus. When a white professor defied the ban, he was surrounded by an angry mob, threatened with violence, and hounded from campus, after which the demonstrators occupied the president’s office. A year later, applications have plunged by about 20 percent, staff is being laid off, and the college is so low on cash that it has had to dip into emergency reserves (in part because the professor who defied the color line won a $500,000 settlement). Yet the story may still have a positive ending. The Day of Absence has been canceled, for this year at least, and this fall a course called “Liberal Education in the College Bubble,” designed to counter what its teacher calls “self-censorship and lack of viewpoint diversity,” will be offered as an elective. Evergreen State has always been a liberal campus; it wouldn’t be Evergreen if it weren’t. But by toning down the hostility, eliminating segregation, and accepting a little true diversity, perhaps it can recover its bearings.
• Arcata, Calif., is a college town (Humboldt State), so you won’t be surprised to learn that it has a Green-party majority on its city council, a ban on cultivation of genetically modified organisms, and lots of homeless people. When the statue-toppling craze broke out last year, Arcatans looked around and found no convenient monuments to Confederate generals or slave-owning Founders, so they seized on President William McKinley, whose sins include winning the Spanish–American War and annexing Hawaii. McKinley, whose statue has stood in Arcata since 1906, makes a rather lackluster villain, and being assassinated should earn him a bit of sympathy, but he was an imperialist, and in a pinch, that’s enough. So down comes McKinley . . . eventually: It turns out that before he can be carted away, the city must amend its General Plan to explain how the statue’s removal will affect land use, transportation, housing, and public safety, and file with the state an official review of the environmental effects, at a cost of $65,000 and months of delay. At least the onerous regulations are a temporary check on the town’s asininity.
• Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred is resolved to institute rule changes to speed up the game. He thinks that extra innings should start with a runner already on second base. The players’ union opposes Manfred’s larger vision, and plans to institute a runner-on-second rule in spring-training exhibition games have fallen through, although proposals for using it in the All-Star Game or the low minor leagues are still floating. Manfred needs to think through what he wants. Is it faster pace of play? Or shorter games? The two objectives overlap, but they’re not the same. Starting extra innings with a runner on base does nothing to quicken the pace of play. It only increases the odds that the suspense of an extra-inning game will end sooner.
• Hollywood has its Citizen Kane, we have our Citizen Cooke. Charles C. W. Cooke — familiarly Charlie — came to us from England, and, specifically, from Oxford University. Like many an immigrant, he has more enthusiasm about America than most who are native-born. He is the kind of person who freshens and instructs us. Today, he is editor of National Review Online, and is a newly minted American citizen. The best blessings are mutual, and Charlie and America will do each other plenty of good.
• “Eagle-eyed” is a cliché synonym for sharp-sighted, but he had the real thing: bright, piercing, embedded in a brow molded clearly as a head on a coin. He was passionate, without melodramatics — no stage tears. And to the frustration of scoffers eternally on the lookout for clerical hypocrisy, his books were open and free of taint. Billy Graham had his failings, as the Book he believed in assures us he would have had: He was too close to presidents — too naïve about their seeming agreement with him, too awed by their worldly power. His true audience was not them, but the millions to whom he spread the word. The Christian life asks a lifetime of commitment, including membership in a church. Graham did not minister to that process; his job was to open the door to outsiders, and to remind the lukewarm that the door was ever there, waiting to admit them. Dead at 99. R.I.P.
The horrifying massacre at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., has been marked by much that is maddeningly familiar: the serial failure of law-enforcement and mental-health authorities; the ghoulish opportunism of the blame-the-NRA crowd; the dearth of fruitful good-faith debate about mitigatory reforms in the aftermath.
What can be done?
The first and most obvious measure that should be taken is to face up forthrightly to the fact that schools are targets, and to begin treating them as such. That involves some trade-offs that can be difficult to calculate: For instance, schools would benefit from better entry controls, but also from more emergency exits, and it is difficult to do both effectively at the same time. Armed guards are potentially valuable, but only potentially: Neither the armed on-site school policeman in Parkland nor the three deputies who arrived shortly after the shooting started lifted a finger to stop the killing. There may be some value in a Texas-style school-marshal program, in which interested school employees are given extensive background checks and substantial, ongoing active-shooter training before being permitted to discreetly arm themselves on the job. But that program remains untested. Again, there will be questions of trade-offs: In Philadelphia, police officers have on more than one occasion prevented a student from bringing a gun into a school, but they also have found themselves in trouble for everything from mishandling their own firearms to assaulting students. We favor meeting force with force — we see few if any viable alternatives — but that is something that school administrators and police officials should go into with their eyes open.
Those who believe that homicide can be radically reduced by prohibiting particular classes of firearms are either ignorant of the facts or being less than entirely forthcoming about their intentions. Notwithstanding their use in high-profile crimes such as the Parkland massacre, semiautomatic rifles are used in a vanishingly small share of U.S. homicides, as indeed are all rifles and shotguns combined. The firearms most commonly used in violent crimes are — no surprise — the most common ones, mainly semiautomatic handguns. There is no meaningful definition of “assault weapon,” but what is most broadly indicated by that term is a semiautomatic firearm with a detachable magazine — which is to say, the great majority of firearms sold every year in the United States. A prohibition on such “assault weapons” would amount to a general prohibition on common firearms, which is constitutionally impermissible. It also is unlikely to be effective, given the millions of such weapons already in private hands, without a national program of confiscation, something most gun-control advocates loudly forswear, at least in front of the news cameras.
As with so much that is wrong in our society — not only violent crime — the events in Parkland were no surprise to those closest to the situation. And they should not have been a surprise to the police or to the school authorities, who were well aware, having been repeatedly warned, of the killer’s stated intention to do exactly what he did. There were dozens of calls to the Broward County sheriff’s office, as well as calls to the Palm Beach sheriff’s office and the FBI. The killer was well known to the police and to school authorities both. Nobody did anything. All of the laws, school interventions, and mental-health programs in the world aren’t going to do any good if those in positions of responsibility are unwilling or unable to act. There was ample reason to put at least an assault charge on the killer — he was thrown out of Stoneman Douglas for assault — which would have prevented his legally buying any firearm. But nothing happened.
It was not the NRA that failed those students in Florida.