When National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre proposed late last year that the best way to keep schools safe was to put more "good guys with guns" in them, the reaction inside the Beltway was immediate -- and one-sided.
LaPierre had hurt, not helped, his cause with the press conference, the thinking went, by proposing more guns rather than less guns in schools. His attitude was deeply out of step with the average person and was symbolic that the NRA's time had passed.
In new polling conducted by the Washington Post and ABC News, there appears to be far more support for arming people in schools than you might think.
Two questions make the point.
First, a majority (55 percent) of Americans in the poll support the idea of putting an armed guard in every school in the country, including 65 percent of Republicans, 53 percent of independents and 52 percent of Democrats.
Second, when asked whether stricter gun laws or armed guards would do more to curb gun violence in schools, 43 percent chose tighter gun laws while 41 percent named armed guards -- a statistical dead heat. Not surprisingly, Democrats strongly favored stricter gun laws while Republicans preferred armed guards. Independents, living up to their name, split 42 percent for stricter laws and 41 percent for armed guards.
What those numbers suggest is that LaPierre's assertion about arming more people in schools is simply not viewed as all that far-fetched by a large plurality of the country. It also makes clear that the conversation about guns happening on the Acela Corridor (between Boston, New York City and Washington, D.C.) is not the same conversation happening in other places in the country. To further make that point: People living in urban areas back stricter gun laws over armed guards as a way to curb violence in schools by 13 points in the WaPo-ABC survey; those living in rural areas favor the armed guard options by 22 points.
Put simply: Demonizing the NRA and its proposed solution to gun violence in schools may seem like a slam dunk political win but the numbers in the Post-ABC poll suggest it's more like a jump ball.