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Students lead gun protests

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Stay focused and don’t be distracted by the shiny object. The folks at the National Rifle Association want proponents of common sense gun laws to do the opposite.

In the wake of last month’s mass shooting at a Florida high school, the NRA proposed an absurd and outlandish idea to arm teachers in schools to prevent attacks, even though there is little evidence that a “good guy with a gun is the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun,” as NRA supporters like to parrot.

The national conversation following the Parkland, Florida, shooting, in which 17 died, has seemed different than that after other U.S. mass shootings in recent years. It has spawned a groundswell of student activists, who have so far shown no sign of backing down in calling for more gun control legislation and safer campuses.

Sensing a shifting tide, the NRA has dipped into its old playbook, which goes like this. Anytime there is momentum for doing anything that changes the status quo on gun control, the NRA does something to push the conversation in the exact opposite direction, in this case suggesting arming teachers.

The proposal to give teachers guns, which even the NRA can’t possibly think will gain traction, serves two purposes for the gun lobby. If it is somehow adopted, then gun manufacturers have a new market of hundreds of thousands of teachers to sell their weapons. Imagine the Petaluma school board meeting to consider competing proposals from Smith & Wesson and Ruger to see which company gets the contract to supply the school district with AR-15s.

But even if arming teachers doesn’t gain traction, those who are calling for common sense gun restrictions are now forced to fight this latest proposal. So, instead of lobbying for an assault weapons ban, age restrictions for firearm purchases and stricter background checks, we now must waste time and energy debating this ridiculous proposal.

At some point, the NRA will concede and say, “Fine, gun control advocates win. We won’t push for arming teachers.” And the NRA will want gun control advocates to think this is a concession, to celebrate the victory and then go back to the status quo, which is where we are now with gun laws that have no teeth. Meanwhile, the common sense measures that gun control advocates are asking for become forgotten, until the next mass shooting.

We can’t let that happen this time. We can’t be distracted. Of course we need to push back on this asinine proposal to arm teachers, but after that is defeated, we must continue to press for more gun control measures.

We are not talking about overturning the Second Amendment, another common straw man that the NRA likes to use to distract from the gun control debate. The Second Amendment does not afford universal access to every arm that humankind has ever invented. If it did, civilians could go out and purchase bazookas, ballistic missiles and Abrams tanks.

But we can’t, because these are weapons of war, not for self defense or hunting, and therefore they are banned. Assault weapons like the AR-15, the most popular gun of choice in mass shootings, are also weapons of war and should also be outlawed.

Gun control activism always spikes just after mass shootings, which are becoming all too common in this country. But the momentum typically fades after the funerals, thoughts and prayers and moments of silence end. Meanwhile, on the other side, the gun lobby is active on all of the days in between mass shootings, bank rolling politicians and producing slick media campaigns designed to keep gun owners in fear that the government wants to unlawfully take their guns and, more importantly, their freedom.

This time, we hope the momentum continues for common sense gun regulations. Advocates shouldn’t get distracted fending off silly proposals. Stay focused on what really matters — keeping our schools and our children safe from the fate of the 17 who died in Florida and the many thousands of others who have unnecessarily died by a gun.