When you examine Donald Trump’s call for arming teachers and paying bonuses to educators who are willing to carry guns, a few facts become eminently clear.
One is that his allegiance to the National Rifle Association and other gun groups knows no bounds. For him the wishes of gun owners and gun manufacturers will always take precedence over the good of all others. He refers to the NRA as patriots: I’m sure he doesn’t think of the rest of us with the same fuzzy warmth.
Another fact is that he has no idea what teachers do with their time, what their day is actually like, how a school runs, and why most teachers become teachers. Some of them own guns, but they’ve decided that their occupation of choice doesn’t require firing them.
Nor does Trump have even a rudimentary understanding of weapons. In this respect he and I are alike, but I’m learning—and I don’t like the education. I now know that a bullet from a handgun travels at about a thousand miles an hour and pierces the body and its organs in a neat, straight line, leaving an exit wound (if there is one) that’s hardly noticeable. The victim can survive. A round from an AR-15 tumbles through its victim at three times that speed and leaves an exit wound the size of a baseball. Organs struck by a bullet from a handgun can be saved. Organs struck by a round from an AR-15 cannot even be found.
Still, in Trump’s distorted and parochial vision of the world, his suggestion that teachers match their handguns against a military weapon makes perfect sense.
Remember Trump’s promise to bring back coal? Nobody wanted it except a small group of men who had worked no other jobs and dreaded the idea of being retrained, and some mining magnates who feared the loss of their meal ticket. Once elected, Trump promoted coal and, significantly, cut back on regulations regarding those who worked in the mines. And then comes this: the admission that black lung disease has come storming back in southwestern Virginia in a frighteningly virulent form. David J. Blackley, an epidemiologist at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, said that the epidemic “knocked us back on our heels,” adding that “there’s an unacceptably large number of younger miners who have end-stage disease and the only choice is to get a lung transplant or wait it out and die.”
Any sane government would begin acting to ensure the miners’ safety; the Trump approach is to do the opposite. Now this approach may work with a vaccination—a little hint of the disease to build up antibodies, but it doesn’t work with coal dust and it doesn’t work with school shootings. Adding more guns to darkened and chaotic hallways where fear and terror predominate and where the only one making sense of everything is the shooter translates into nothing but more death.
Trump’s public and pretended shame over the absence of school security is beyond reprehensible, indicative of a pathological inability to empathize and an intellectual incapacity to envision a world beyond himself. He’s a recalcitrant child in our White House, but as I’ve said before, if he wants to protect our children, let him take that $10 billion he “needs” for a wall that will protect us from nothing, and apply it to school security: bulletproof glass, securable classrooms, an armed guard at the entrance.
But over and above all these stopgap measures, let him treat the NRA in the way he should be treating Putin’s Russia: as an enemy of the American people whose view of the world through a gunsight no longer coincides with that of right-thinking citizens. Only then will young men like Nikolas Cruz find it much more difficult even to take a breath near a weapon of war, let alone saunter into a gun shop and buy one.