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Trump Cannot Find Target or Solutions to Gun Violence

In marksmanship and long-range shooting, “finding target” references the challenges of making adjustments for many factors.

Another shooting, and again Donald Trump completely misses the mark, (as he is prone to), when responding to gun massacres. He has asked to “arm teachers” and give them a “bit of a bonus” for carrying, an idea straight from the NRA playbook. Teachers everywhere are aghast at the horror of his suggestion and I’m one of them.

On Valentines Day I showed for class prepared to teach about Global Issues. When I brought up the article I had prepared to use that evening I saw the headline, “17 Dead in School Shooting,” and was floored. I’ve not been the same in the wake of mass-shootings since people I knew were shot and survived during the massacre in Las Vegas.

Adaptation—the ability to identify problem areas or room for improvement, and implement those changes.

I paused and said, “We’ve just had a mass shooting at a school, 17 are dead, we’re going to talk about gun violence tonight.” The pivot was far too easy; I teach Peace Studies and Conflict Transformation and I’ve now spoken after many mass-shootings.

I provided an abbreviated history and personal narrative. A student revealed that she’d been on a hit-list in high school. It warranted a quick trip to the office, where she was informed, and promptly sent back to class—“no big deal”—I guess these threats are ubiquitous in our culture.

Epidemic—widespread occurrence of a threat to public health and safety.

 It would be easy to focus on the dishonesty and inaccuracy in Trump’s responses. On February 26th he doubled and tripled down on them, adding that he’d have run into the shooting without a weapon. What is another lie to go with the 2,000 he told his first year in office?

Why does it matter that he is lying about dead school children now? Trump’s wild shots from the mouth are legion and becoming legend. He says 10 to 20 percent of American school teachers are “very gun adept people” at CPAC, but the 20,000 Troops to Teachers (established in 1993 to assist transitioning service members and veterans in beginning new careers as K-12 school teachers) makes up a paltry .0057% of the total teaching population (FTE public school teachers 3.1 million, and private 0.4 million (in 2015)). Forget that this was actually his pushback on his broader fake news claims:

I never said “give teachers guns” like was stated on Fake News @CNN & @NBC. What I said was to look at the possibility of giving “concealed guns to gun adept teachers with military or special training experience – only the best. 20% of teachers, a lot, would now be able to (Tweet February 22, 2018)

Focusing on numbers is part of his strategy to confuse, create chaos, and disorient. This is why he lies, and sometimes it works. Arming teachers is a horrible idea, and it has nothing to do with the number of veterans who are now in the classroom.

Putting guns into campuses, an effort to “harden the target,” doesn’t work. Addressing gun violence requires addressing the underlying problems. “The Soft Logic of Soft Targets” provides this framework for a broad set of contexts. Go upstream; address the underlying causal factors: ban certain weapons, make mental health care a funded priority, allow municipalities and states to write their own gun codes (which probably can only happen by repealing the Second Amendment), institute gun buy-back programs funded by eliminating plans for more nuclear weapons and recycle the guns into useful metal tools that enhance life instead of taking it.

Trump has offered an incompetent solution because that is all he has. Congress banned the Center for Disease Control and Prevention from studying gun violence 22 years ago. The epidemic of gun violence in the US is clear, but detailed analysis is hard to provide without clear data. But back to reality, Trump has slashed school budgets and just two days before the shooting the “Trump administration proposed cutting millions in federal education programs meant to help prevent crime in schools and assist them in recovery from tragedies.”

Evidence-based decision making—making decisions about a program, practice, and policy that are grounded in the best available research findings.

Too much of the narrative of guns and public safety is caught up in mythological thinking. Just like Trump would not be the hero he imagines himself to be (remember he told Howard Stern that avoiding STDs was his personal Vietnam) his let’s-you-and-him-fight approach to teachers and mass shooters is a dangerous fantasy.

Start by banning assault weapons of war. Listen to the medical record if nothing else.

The testimony is clear (according to a radiologist who has treated multiple shooting victims) comparing the Parkland shooting with the Ft. Lauderdale airport shooting: “only shreds of the organ that had been hit by a bullet from an AR-15 […] Nothing was left to repair—and utterly, devastatingly, nothing could be done to fix the problem. The injury was fatal.

 “A year ago, when a gunman opened fire at the Fort Lauderdale airport with a 9 mm semiautomatic handgun, hitting 11 people in 90 seconds, I was also on call. It was not until I had diagnosed the third of the six victims who were transported to the trauma center that I realized something out of the ordinary must have happened. The gunshot wounds were the same low-velocity handgun injuries that I diagnose every day; only their rapid succession set them apart. And all six of the victims who arrived at the hospital that day survived.” It is time for real solutions, not more of the same NRA-approved slaughter.

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