Students lead gun protests

Arming teachers is a horrible idea and a distraction to the call for meaningful gun control laws|

Stay focused and do not 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 idea to arm teachers in schools to prevent future attacks. Meanwhile, President Trump on Monday reneged on his pledge to seek national-level gun control reforms, and the Republican-controlled Congress, predictably, dithered over whether to mandate the installation of metal detectors, security cameras and bulletproof windows and doors in all American schools. This despite the fact that mass shootings in America have occurred at outdoor concerts, in shopping malls, in movie theaters, in churches, on college campuses, and numerous workplaces as well as at public schools.

The national conversation following the Parkland, Florida tragedy, in which 17 died, has seemed different from 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.

Locally, thousands of students from Petaluma high schools and middle schools joined their growing ranks by walking out of class Wednesday for 17 minutes in honor of the 17 students and educators who died in Parkland, and to show their support for stricter gun laws. Their actions deserve the community’s praise and gratitude and will hopefully lead to positive change.

Sensing a shifting tide nationwide, the cunning leaders at the NRA have dipped into their old playbook, which goes like this: Anytime there is momentum for doing anything to change the status quo on gun laws, the NRA pushes the conversation in the exact opposite direction, in this case by suggesting that schoolteachers carry firearms in the classroom.

This preposterous proposal, widely opposed by the nation’s law enforcement agencies and teacher groups, serves two purposes for the gun lobby. If it is somehow adopted, then gun manufacturers open a new market to sell their weapons to tens of thousands of teachers nationwide. Imagine a Petaluma school board meeting to consider competing proposals from Smith & Wesson and Remington to see which company gets the contract to supply the school district with firearms for its teachers.

But even if the idea of arming teachers doesn’t gain traction, which it shouldn’t, the NRA still succeeds by shifting the political discussion. So instead of debating the merits of more pragmatic policies to prevent gun deaths like an assault weapons ban, age restrictions for firearm purchases and stricter background checks, we instead waste time and energy debating this ridiculous proposal.

Gun safety proponents must not let this happen. Of course we need to push back on the asinine proposal to arm teachers, but after that is defeated, we must follow the lead of students across the nation to press hard for the adoption of sensible gun control measures.

Inspired by our students here in Petaluma, we encourage all Petalumans to advocate for change.

Register to vote and then vote for candidates who support gun violence prevention at the local, state and federal level. Vote against candidates who have accepted support? from the NRA or any other gun lobby group.

Call or write your senators and congressman and urge them to support a law calling for universal background checks on all gun purchases, including private and online sales. Multiple polls show that between 80 and 90 percent of all Americans favor such a law, yet its adoption has been stymied by the NRA.

Ask them to co-sponsor the Closing the Bump-Stock Loophole Act (H.R.4168), which will ban bump stocks and other deadly accessories. Ask them to support the bipartisan Fix Nics Act (S.2135), which will strengthen the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) by ensuring federal authorities and states comply with the law.

Encourage your elected representatives to renew the federal ban on the sale of assault rifles like the AR-15 used in the Parkland killings, together with high capacity magazines that enable murderers to kill the maximum number of people. Also, ask them to oppose the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act (S.446), which would allow individuals who are allowed to carry a concealed handgun in one state to be able to carry into or possess a concealed handgun in a different state, regardless of the other states’ firearm laws.

No one is suggesting overturning the Second Amendment, another common straw man argument that the NRA likes to use to distract from the gun control debate. None of the policies outlined above are in any way unconstitutional.

The Second Amendment does not, after all, afford universal access to every weapon that humankind has ever invented. If it did, civilians could go out and purchase bazookas, rocket launchers 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 have become all too common in this country. But the momentum typically fades after the funerals are over. 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 instill fear among gun owners that the government wants to unlawfully take their guns away.

This country has the world’s highest incidence of gun deaths because we have the loosest gun control laws in the world. Petaluma students who demonstrated yesterday certainly recognize that fact, and understand that the way to solve this problem is to counteract the considerable power of the NRA, one of Washington D.C.’s most active and well-financed lobbying groups.

We salute and support the next generation in their quest to force Congress to do what is necessary to finally stop America’s gun death carnage.

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