Friday, December 21, 2012

The Real Purpose of Today's NRA Press Conference

Today Wayne LaPierre of the NRA hosted his press conference in response to the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut.  Given the organization's statement that it would offer meaningful contributions to the discussion over guns in this country there was speculation that he would offer some conciliatory measure of gun control.  Instead, he blamed video games and the media for violence then proposed a federal effort to put an armed police officer in every school. 

There are reasons to believe this will not be an effective policy.  For one, during a time of budget cuts, it would cost billions of dollars.  Secondly, an armed guard may not prevent school shootings, seeing as Columbine High School had such a guard.  But the real purpose of today's press conference was not to enact a particular policy, it was to limit the gun debate to school shootings and ignore the epidemic of other gun killings that occurs everyday. 

Gun violence has been so widespread that it has turned into background noise.  Since the December 14th shootings in Newtown, far more deaths from gun violence have continued throughout the country in non-school settings.  The outrageous event in Connecticut had refocused attention on the broad issue of gun violence and politicians are starting to move towards legislation such as an assault weapons ban and limits on magazine size.  The genius of LaPierre's press conference is to turn the debate from these broadly applicable measures and restrict the discussion to school violence.   

The debate LaPierre seeks to have is: "Is the NRA proposal a solution to school shootings?"  But these events are exceedingly rare outliers among the daily episodes of gun violence.  The real question needs to be: "How can we reduce the widespread episodes of gun killings throughout the county?"  The answer to that question requires far more than armed guards in schools.