MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association (NRA), reportedly makes more than $5 million a year. Like Donald Trump -- who the NRA helped elect, with well over $20 million in donations -- much of LaPierre's political worth is due to his shock value.
After nearly every national shooting tragedy, LaPierre employs the same game plan. He incongruously blames advocates of gun reform for allegedly taking advantage of the deaths and injuries caused by the latest firearms-related horror. Meanwhile, he uses his bully pulpit, exploiting the tragic deaths to advance fringe ideas. These invariably include alleged "solutions" that involve more guns.
Among LaPierre's recent inflammatory claims was the allegation that socialists were leading the charge against guns. On Thursday, he told the Conservative Political Action Conference's (CPAC) attendees:
I hear a lot of quiet in this room, and I sense your anxiety. And you should be anxious, and you should be frightened. If they seize power, if these so-called 'European socialists' take over the House and the Senate, and God forbid they get the White House again, our Americans freedoms could be lost and our country will be changed forever....
We must immediately harden our schools. Every day, young children are being dropped off at schools that are virtually wide open, soft targets for anyone bent on mass murder. It should not be easier for a madman to shoot up a school than a bank or a jewelry story or some Hollywood gala. Schools must be the most hardened target in this country, and evil must be confronted immediately with all necessary force to protect our kids.
LaPierre finished his fire-and-brimstone speech with the NRA's succinct argument: "To stop a bad guy with a gun, it takes a good guy with a gun."
On a more global level, this is similar to arguing that everyone is safer with more nuclear weapons spread around the world, rather than fewer. That analogy is buttressed by the prima facie presumption of LaPierre that an armed society is safer than a civil society. He is issuing a clarion call for more armament. The NRA's position on guns is one more brick in the building and maintenance of a militarized society.
The NRA claims to have 5 million members and an annual budget in excess of $330 million. There are many other pro-gun groups, some even more fanatical than the NRA, but the NRA is the group that the media sees as the spokesperson for gun advocates. Therefore, LaPierre carries a lot of weight in the debate over guns in the United States, a debate that the NRA has largely been winning for years in terms of legislation.
In a Facebook post this week, professor and author Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor referred to "the toxic masculinity that often expresses itself in gun violence." That is all part and parcel, she notes, of larger social structures that perpetuate violence:
And when those young people [advocating for gun reform] wind their visceral anger and fears into an analysis that identifies a society founded on genocide and enriched through the enslavement of Black people and the economic exploitation of tens of millions of migrants, they will discover that guns, violence, racism and war is the blood, guts and sinew that bind this nation together.
Thus, when Wayne LaPierre trots out one of the NRA's favorite mantras -- that armed teachers will prevent school shootings (a position also espoused by Donald Trump this week) -- he is trying to advance the further intrusion of this society's ignoble underpinnings into the educational system. LaPierre is not just offering pablum to prevent gun reform; he is advocating for a violent, racist, militarist legacy to become even further embedded in our schools.
If the role of a teacher is transformed into the role of a police officer or a soldier, it is bringing a militarized environment into the classroom at a time when US society should be demilitarizing. Moreover, many schools in communities of color already experience heavy policing and militarization, which has taken a severe toll on students and fueled the school-to-prison pipeline.
Arming teachers is an extension of state violence into the very system we rely on to prepare young people for their adult lives.
One of LaPierre's hyperbolic warnings at CPAC reflects how much the NRA is about partisan politics:
The left’s message is absolutely clear. They want revenge. You have to be punished. They say you are what is wrong with America. And now, you have to be purged.
LaPierre's CPAC speech was laced with scorn for progressive groups, the Democratic Party, college professors teaching The Communist Manifesto and enough red meat to feed a reunion of the John Birch Society. It is within this context that arming teachers becomes a political act as much as it is touted as a ludicrously dubious means of saving lives.
Make no mistake about it. The NRA is really a hybrid organization. It defends guns while it shills for a reactionary society built upon violence.