Commentary Magazine


Topic: school security

NRA’s Schools Idea Not Crazy, Just Liberal

National Rifle Association head Wayne LaPierre doubled down on his defiant stance in the aftermath of the Newtown massacre yesterday by defending his proposal for a federal program to put armed guards at schools around the nation on the Sunday talk shows. On “Meet the Press,” he said, “If it’s crazy to call for armed officers in our schools to protect our children, then call me crazy.” He’s right to the extent that there is nothing foolish about a discussion about strengthening security in schools. But NRA members who have lashed out at anyone who had the temerity to criticize LaPierre for his tone deaf response to Newtown after a week of silence, as I did both here at Contentions and in the New York Post, should realize something else. LaPierre’s idea may not be crazy, but it also isn’t conservative.

If there is anything at the heart of the modern conservative moment it’s the impulse to push back at the liberal drive to increase the power and the reach of the federal government at the expense of the states and local communities. Nothing is a greater threat to our individual liberty than giving federal bureaucrats the ability to impose their fiats on the nation through unfunded mandates and regulations. Yet that is exactly what LaPierre’s hare-brained scheme to make school security a federal program would do. After decades of furiously and rightly resisting attempts by liberals to bypass local resistance to gun control laws via federal legislation, the NRA is now playing the same card. If the group wants to know why most congressional Republicans have given the idea a chilly reception, it’s not only due to the public relations disaster that resulted from the group’s Friday presser; it’s because nationalizing school security is a liberal concept, not a conservative one.

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National Rifle Association head Wayne LaPierre doubled down on his defiant stance in the aftermath of the Newtown massacre yesterday by defending his proposal for a federal program to put armed guards at schools around the nation on the Sunday talk shows. On “Meet the Press,” he said, “If it’s crazy to call for armed officers in our schools to protect our children, then call me crazy.” He’s right to the extent that there is nothing foolish about a discussion about strengthening security in schools. But NRA members who have lashed out at anyone who had the temerity to criticize LaPierre for his tone deaf response to Newtown after a week of silence, as I did both here at Contentions and in the New York Post, should realize something else. LaPierre’s idea may not be crazy, but it also isn’t conservative.

If there is anything at the heart of the modern conservative moment it’s the impulse to push back at the liberal drive to increase the power and the reach of the federal government at the expense of the states and local communities. Nothing is a greater threat to our individual liberty than giving federal bureaucrats the ability to impose their fiats on the nation through unfunded mandates and regulations. Yet that is exactly what LaPierre’s hare-brained scheme to make school security a federal program would do. After decades of furiously and rightly resisting attempts by liberals to bypass local resistance to gun control laws via federal legislation, the NRA is now playing the same card. If the group wants to know why most congressional Republicans have given the idea a chilly reception, it’s not only due to the public relations disaster that resulted from the group’s Friday presser; it’s because nationalizing school security is a liberal concept, not a conservative one.

As the New York Times reported, approximately one-third of all schools in the nation already have armed personnel on campus. Though most of these have been in urban areas where gangs and crime are at the root of the concern, others are starting to talk about increasing security, including having guards with firearms. But these decisions are the result of choices being made by local officials and communities, not a dictat issued from Washington. If federal programs such as “No Child Left Behind” have proved to be mistakes because they don’t give school districts the flexibility to make their own judgments, how much more misguided is the NRA’s attempt to make guns in schools a matter of federal purview.

It’s not exactly a secret that LaPierre’s presentation about school security was an attempt to divert the country’s attention from its grief about Newtown and the debate about a renewed push for gun control. Most Americans still support gun rights, if not in the absolutist fashion that the NRA feels is essential to fend off any sort of restrictions that could be an opening for those who wish to make gun possession illegal. But it’s not fooling anyone with its National Model School Shield Program. It’s something that will give Washington the ability to interfere in yet another sphere of our lives and it hasn’t a chance of mustering the support it needs from either liberal Democrats that despise the NRA or conservatives who understand that is not what the country needs.

The notion that a good guy packing heat needs to be there to stop bad guys with guns is sensible. But if LaPierre really believes that Americans wish to cede control of their schools to the federal government, he really is crazy.

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Jews Are Being Hunted

The Toulouse massacre has hit Jews hard today, though perhaps none so hard as those who, like the kids and adults shot today, go to or work at or send their kids to Jewish day schools. If you live in the world of Jewish education, you’ve gotten used to conversations and briefings on security—what is being done to prevent violence, what will happen if God forbid there is violence, how to find your kids in the aftermath of violence.

Since 9/11, the possibility of staged attacks on Jewish institutions has been a consuming concern, and institutions with resources have spent enormous amounts of money on metal detectors and guards and “man-traps.” And with good reason; in 2006, Naveed Afzal Haq shot six people at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle while shouting “I am a Muslim-American.” One of the busted terrorist plots in recent years involved a planned assault on a JCC in Riverdale, one of the most Jewish neighborhoods in America, just north of Manhattan. One school I know, on an upper floor in a building, is literally locked off during the day; its elevators cannot stop on the floor and it is impossible to enter through the staircase.

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The Toulouse massacre has hit Jews hard today, though perhaps none so hard as those who, like the kids and adults shot today, go to or work at or send their kids to Jewish day schools. If you live in the world of Jewish education, you’ve gotten used to conversations and briefings on security—what is being done to prevent violence, what will happen if God forbid there is violence, how to find your kids in the aftermath of violence.

Since 9/11, the possibility of staged attacks on Jewish institutions has been a consuming concern, and institutions with resources have spent enormous amounts of money on metal detectors and guards and “man-traps.” And with good reason; in 2006, Naveed Afzal Haq shot six people at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle while shouting “I am a Muslim-American.” One of the busted terrorist plots in recent years involved a planned assault on a JCC in Riverdale, one of the most Jewish neighborhoods in America, just north of Manhattan. One school I know, on an upper floor in a building, is literally locked off during the day; its elevators cannot stop on the floor and it is impossible to enter through the staircase.

What makes the Toulouse shooting so chilling, therefore, is that it circumvents many security efforts to some extent. It took place outside, not inside, and it was not a systematic attack but rather a spraying of bullets. It is, in other words, a crime that can be imitated. All it takes is a street, and kids, and parents, and maybe a yarmulke or two as a means of identifying targets.

Jews are being hunted.

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