The Morning Jolt


Do We Want Armed Teachers or Security Guards in Our Children’s Schools?

A protester holds a defaced placard at a rally calling for more gun control three days after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S.,February 17, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

The case against arming teachers, and/or armed personnel in school:

  • This seems like a prime candidate for local control, and the kind of idea that works a lot better if all the parties “buy in” from the beginning. If you can build a reasonable consensus among local law enforcement, the school board, the principal, the teachers and the parents of the children attending the school think it’s a good idea, go for it. If you don’t have a consensus, the decision is likely to spur a lot of enraged accusations and counter-accusations of endangering children.
  • Think of all the teachers you had as a kid, and all of the teachers of your children. You can probably recall ones you would trust with a gun in a crisis and probably some you would not.
  • Depending upon the size of the school, the armed officer may not be in the right place at the right time. There was an armed officer at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, but he was elsewhere on campus when the attack began and never encountered the gunman.
  • Accidental shootings are probably inevitable, and not just by teachers. Imagine there’s a school shooting, and a teacher gets his gun and starts looking for the shooter. The cops arrive and see a man with a gun.

The case for arming teachers, and/or armed personnel in school:

Forgive me for asking you to imagine every parent’s worst nightmare: There’s a man with a gun approaching your child’s school right now. How quickly will the local police get there? Maybe everyone will be lucky and the nearest patrol car is close, just a minute or two away. But maybe it’s five minutes, or closer to ten minutes.

In that interim, the only thing standing between the gunman and your child are some locked doors and any adult willing to confront the gunman while unarmed.

If a teacher or security guard in that school has a gun, doesn’t that increase your child’s chances of survival? Suddenly the gunman doesn’t have impunity. He has to stop, he has to find cover, he has to retreat or refocus his attack from unarmed children and teachers to the person who’s shooting at him. That’s not a good situation, and there’s still danger to all of the innocent lives surrounding the gunman and the armed guard or teacher. But now the odds of the shooter being incapacitated are dramatically better.

I’ve wondered about the “shelter in place” policy practiced at most schools. Is that really the safest approach when someone has arrived with murderous intentions?

A 2013 report, put together by FEMA, the FBI, and the Department of Education, recommended, “If it is safe to do so for yourself and those in your care, the first course of action that should be taken is to run out of the building and far away until you are in a safe location.” It also recommended, “If neither running nor hiding is a safe option, as a last resort when confronted by the shooter, adults in immediate danger should consider trying to disrupt or incapacitate the shooter by using aggressive force and items in their environment, such as fire extinguishers and chairs.”

We can, and should, have a long and detailed discussion about how to keep guns out of the hands of those with mental problems, endless rage, and malevolent motives. I keep pushing for a start with fixing the NICS background check system and more consistently prosecuting straw buyers. But a lot of the current debate features comments that amount to, “We shouldn’t be in this situation, our children don’t deserve this.” Indeed, we shouldn’t, and they don’t. But that doesn’t change what our situation actually is.

Asking a teacher to be ready to confront a school shooter with a firearm is an enormous, almost unthinkable request. But is it any better to ask a teacher to be ready to confront a school shooter with a fire extinguisher or chair?

Wisconsinites, Get Ready to Hear a Lot About Michael Brennan

You’ve seen activist groups get mobilized and fired up over Supreme Court nomination fights. Are you ready to get mobilized and fired up over . . . U.S. Court of Appeals fights?

Americans for Prosperity is announcing this morning that they’re making a “significant investment” in digital ads in Wisconsin, supporting Michael Brennan, nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and urging people to contact their senators to confirm Brennan without delay. The group will also specifically target Senator Tammy Baldwin (D., Wisc.) — who failed to return her blue slip for Brennan. (A blue slip is a form of approval from a nominee’s home-state senators.)

“We applaud Senator [Chuck] Grassley for ushering Brennan through committee and ignoring the political games of Senator Baldwin, who continues to value partisanship over the best interests of her constituents,” said AFP vice president of judicial strategy Sarah Field. “We will continue mobilizing our activists as needed to ensure fair and qualified nominees are confirmed to the federal bench, and we will hold accountable those who play games with the American judiciary.”

The Senate vote to confirm Brennan broke along — surprise! — partisan lines, and Democrats contend Judicial Committee chairman Chuck Grassley is perpetrating some sort of hideous assault on tradition by not honoring Baldwin’s lack of support.

This is precisely the sort of argument that would be a lot more compelling if Senate Democrats hadn’t filibustered three of President Bush’s judicial nominees in 2007 and then turned around and nuked the filibuster for all non-Supreme Court nominees in 2013.

CPAC, the Pundit Concert

CPAC begins in earnest today.

Back in 2016, I wrote . . .

The conference was and is always a cacophonous mix of the serious and the sublimely silly: think-tank policy experts and lawmakers rubbing shoulders with gadflies and niche celebrities such as Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty, Kirk Cameron, Stephen Baldwin, the Duggars, and “Hercules” Kevin Sorbo. The biggest issues facing the country and the world were debated on stage, while outside, convention-goers posed for pictures with Marvel superheroes in full costume, a Revolutionary-garb tea-party guy, and Uncle Sam on stilts.

Former John McCain strategist and MSNBC contributor Steve Schmidt once called CPAC “the Star Wars bar scene of the conservative movement.” That seemed like a hyperbolic, sneering assessment . . . until the 2014 conference featured Imperial stormtroopers, Boba Fett, and other Star Wars characters walking around.

CPAC represents the conservative movement, in the sense that it represents people who are willing to pay for a ticket — $300 for regular, $150 for seniors and veterans, $85 for a student, $5,000 for the “gold package” and, if they don’t live within driving distance of National Harbor, Md., are willing to pay travel costs and get a hotel room. This means the participants aren’t all wealthy, but they’ve got some disposable income, and their political passions aren’t just a hobby. In past years, certain campaigns and factions within the party were sure to mobilize their supporters. From 2007 to 2014, the only winners of the conference’s annual straw poll had the last names “Romney” or “Paul,” both Ron and Rand. In recent years, the conference has attracted more than 10,000 attendees.

The media coverage of CPAC is usually overwhelming, in part because it’s one-stop shopping for political journalists. In one spot, for three days, you’ve got some lawmakers (including this year, the president and vice president), some controversy-generating speakers, a long line of radio shows taping live, every conservative activist group under the sun, and a steady supply of conservative-leaning Republican primary voters. It is not often that I quote Matt Yglesias, but he had a smart observation: “[CPAC] assembles en masse a certain kind of unicorn character who is good to write about — the “normal person” (as opposed to the professional political operative) who is also highly attuned to politics and willing to express opinions about it to a perfect stranger.”

Judging from this year’s schedule, organizers sense that the folks who are willing to buy tickets are eager to hear from contributors and familiar faces from Fox News: Sebastian Gorka, John Bolton, Eric Bolling, Greta Van Susteren, Katie Pavlich, Laura Ingraham, Michelle Malkin, Sheriff David Clarke, and a live taping of Sean Hannity’s show, among others. (In fact, I’d wonder what percentage of people appearing on this year’s CPAC stage have never appeared on Fox News as a guest.)

People can have every album of a performer, comedian, or band, and still relish attending their concerts and shows and listening to the same performances live. That’s . . . what CPAC has become, in a way: pundit concerts. You’ve seen these people on TV making similar arguments and points, but now you can watch them do it right before your eyes, buy the souvenir t-shirt, and if you’re lucky, they’ll stop and pose for a picture with you.

ADDENDA: Michael Graham lays out his argument about why CNN’s town hall about gun control made the country “a little crappier” last night. “It was essentially an anti-gun, the-NRA-[stinks], kill-the-NRA rally that was framed as a town hall meeting . . . It was just a screaming, yelling rally.”

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