Trump’s fixation on arming teachers got a mixed reception this week from governors gathering in Washington. For every red-state governor talking up the benefits of bringing more guns into schools, there was another pointing to the obvious dangers of arming full-time teachers untested in battle-type conditions.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is expert in not allowing popular measures to reach the floor, let alone pass. So far he’s sounding as though all that he would consider is an NRA-approved improvement in the existing background-check system. That doesn’t sit well with Democrats, as Politico reported:
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) signaled on Tuesday that his caucus may block a narrow bipartisan proposal to improve — but not expand — background checks for gun purchases unless Republican leaders commit to voting on broader gun control measures.
Senate Democrats stopped short of vowing to vote against the small-scale gun bill that their GOP counterparts are pushing after this month’s shooting of 17 students and teachers at a Florida high school. But Schumer suggested that Democrats wouldn’t be satisfied with “just one narrow tweak at the margins,” even as Republican leaders in the Senate and House downplayed the possibility of action on anything else.
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), for all his “thoughts and prayers” for Parkland, Fla., students, doesn’t want to do much of anything either. (“Ryan on Tuesday also threw cold water on the push for expansive new gun control measures. ‘We shouldn’t be banning guns for law-abiding citizens’ but ‘focusing on making sure that citizens who shouldn’t get guns in the first place, don’t get those guns,’ Ryan told reporters.”)
Ryan and McConnell are banking that the status quo will hold. They shrug off polls showing sky-high support for a variety of gun measures, betting that come election time, the NRA voters will stick by them while gun-safety advocates will not become one-issue voters. And while Trump talks about supporting measures such as a new age requirement, there is absolutely no sign that he intends to offer or push for legislation. In short, don’t be surprised if Congress and Trump do absolutely nothing.
Out in the states, more movement on gun legislation is possible — but not all of it aimed at reducing access to guns. The Tampa Bay Times reports:
Facing anguished relatives and classmates of shooting victims, a panel of Florida legislators took the unprecedented step Tuesday of creating a new statewide program to put armed teachers in classrooms — over the vocal opposition of Parkland residents.
Voting along party lines, the House Appropriations Committee approved training teachers to carry guns in class under the direction of local law enforcement — if superintendents and school boards approve. … The goal: 10 marshals (teachers trained to carry a gun) in every school, which would equate to 37,000 statewide. The state would cover the costs of background checks, drug testing, psychological exams and 132 hours of training. The bill does provide a one-time $500 stipend for those who volunteer to have a gun.
The cost and total impracticality of the system, one would think, should be enough to discourage such legislation. (How would a handgun-toting teacher have confronted an intruder with an AR-15? How do they prevent the guns from being stolen? Who is responsible if the teacher harms or kills either a student or passerby?) Perhaps the governor will put the kibosh on this. It is not clear, however, whether other parts of the bill (which “imposes a three-day waiting period for gun purchases, raises the age to buy a gun from 18 to 21 and gives police more power to seize guns from people who threaten themselves or others”) would survive without the guns-for-teachers measure.
Other states provide more reason for optimism. In Rhode Island, the governor signed an executive order to allow for gun-violence restraining orders, which allow the state, subject to a hearing, to take guns away from those who are a danger to themselves or others. Vermont is considering a similar measure. Some states are seeking to raise the age to purchase guns.
In sum, between Trump and the GOP leadership in Congress, we won’t likely see significant legislation to make it harder to acquire weapons of war. At the state level, it’s a decidedly mixed bag. One hopes that in the true spirit of federalism, the laboratories of democracy will provide the raw data to help lawmakers make informed decisions. However, it also requires that advocates of sensible gun legislation look beyond Washington. The real action may very well be in statehouses.
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