This is the seventh installment of "NRA vs. USA", a series by Douglas Anthony Cooper dealing with gun control and the Newtown Massacre. Part One, "This is What You Take to a Gun Fight" is here. Part Two, "Walking in the Shoes of Our Slain Children" is here. Part Three, "A Proven Way to End the Gun Slaughter: Will We Fight For it?" is here. Part Four, "Guns? Mental Health? Really? Let's Talk About Psychopaths" is here. Part Five, "So You're Bored of the Newtown Massacre" is here. Part Six, "Now We Know Who's Going to Take Down the NRA" is here.
By all means let's put armed guards in public schools. I remember in kindergarten really wishing we had cops stalking the hallways: the kind armed and trained to take down determined shooters in bulletproof vests. The problem is that I was raised in Canada, where people aren't free, so there was no reason for hall monitors to be grownups with assault rifles.
Freedom means that children are imprisoned so that gun-lovers can exercise their constitutional rights? Oh, but this isn't a prison. Here, the jailers are allied with the kids. You want hard men carrying semiautomatics to keep out the bad guys. Well, let's go all the way, shall we, as we design these not-prisons.
Looks as if this exercise in happy-go-lucky childhood -- suggested by those adults at the National Rifle Association -- may well be attracting some serious funds: there's talk of putting aside $50 million. Still, this will be tax-payers' money, so let's be fiscally responsible. How about barbed wire? Barbed wire is cheap, and bad guys have a notoriously difficult time climbing over barbed wire.
What about guard towers? I ask you, which is safer: having armed goons wandering the halls, or trained snipers in towers? The thing about guard towers is that you can take out the bad guys before they get anywhere near the school. And let's keep an eye on the budget here: if you put a tower at each corner of the school, and have a swath of no man's land surrounding the structure -- a sort of dry moat -- then you can minimize the manpower required to keep children free and happy.
Searchlights! Searchlights are affordable, and night classes can be dangerous.
And what you really want is the very finest high-tech surveillance equipment. Ah, childhood. Tom and Huck. Kick the can. Infrared.
You see, the best way to prove the totalitarian stupidity of the NRA's proposal is to take it seriously. This is an old and venerable technique: the reductio ad absurdum. You simply accept the premises of an argument, at face value, and see where they take you. Once you've demonstrated that this trail of reasoning leads -- by necessity -- to an unacceptable (generally idiotic) conclusion, then you know that at least one of those premises is rotten.
Here's the problem, however. Once you arrive at the unacceptable (generally idiotic) conclusion, you have to recognize that this is where you're standing: somewhere unacceptable. You have to acknowledge that -- simply by standing there, stroking your chin seriously -- you're an idiot.
Otherwise the reductio doesn't work. You come up with a situation like this: well-meaning, generally thoughtful politicians actually proposing -- with straight faces -- that we put $50 million towards transforming schools into gulags.
And why? So that the grownups can be free to stockpile weapons against tyranny. I mean, good lord, you don't want tyrants. So let's have our children spend their best, most carefree years under the watchful eyes of crack mercenaries.
We were in the process of some kind of argument, I seem to remember. Something about arriving at an absurdity, and deciding that -- as a result of this -- there's something desperately wrong with the reasoning that brought us there?
Now, explain to me how this is not just a little bit absurd. To preserve freedom in America, we'll place children in a learning environment that would have been considered oppressive under Stalin. We'll lock them in buildings that are -- I guarantee it -- more heavily guarded then any kindergarten in North Korea.
Are we out of our collective mind?
Fifty. Million. Dollars. Towards ensuring that, between the ages of six and sixteen, American citizens live in a dystopian hell. All in the name of freedom.
The NRA would have this so that, once you emerge from that hell, you're free. And let's face it: you are. You can own as many guns as you want. Can't say that about anywhere else in the free world, can you? You can buy all of these guns without being hassled: no intrusive background checks; no edgy waiting period. Anywhere else have this kind of freedom? I don't think so.
Hence, when you escort your children from the house to the school, you can guarantee them genuine safety. An armed escort. Home is safe (because there are guns); school is safe (because there are guns); and should anything bad happen between these two armed camps, you have mil-spec ordnance to annihilate this threat to your children's freedom.
Nowhere else in the world will children be so rigorously protected from tyranny.
The Obama administration is, of course, famed for going the distance when it comes to compromise. (The distance being precisely the thing you don't want to go.) And so we read this paragraph, in an actual news story:
The school safety initiative would make federal dollars available to schools that want to hire police officers and install surveillance equipment, although it is not nearly as far-ranging as the National Rifle Association's proposal for armed guards in every U.S. school.
The idea is gaining currency among some Democratic lawmakers, who see it as a potential area of common ground with Republicans who otherwise oppose stricter restrictions on firearms. Liberal Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said she presented the plan to Vice President Joe Biden, and that he was "very, very interested" and may include it in the policy recommendations he makes to President Barack Obama.
Let's do a close reading. This idea is "gaining currency." With sane people.
Why? Because it's a "potential area of common ground." Ah! A compromise! Senator Barbara Boxer (a sober, liberal woman) presented this lunacy to Joe Biden (not generally considered a drooling whackjob) and the Vice President is "very, very interested."
Interested in what?
Am I missing something? Is there an idea here? The NRA has suggested something cynical, tyrannical, utterly worthless and unparalleled in stupidity -- and this fascinates you? Perhaps the interesting part is that you're only going to put $50 million towards this thuggery, when it could be $100 million. "It is not nearly as far-ranging as the National Rifle Association's proposal for armed guards in every U.S. school." We'll, that's win-win, isn't it.
In return for this, the NRA is willing to not consider gun controls of any sort. Seems fair to me.
At least we're not talking about barbed wire, right? Or guard towers. Or surveillance equipment. Or... hang on. Sometimes you really do have to read things closely, to be sure that you're not hallucinating.
"The school safety initiative would make federal dollars available to schools that want to hire police officers and install surveillance equipment."
When Joe Biden eagerly presents these "policy recommendations" to President Obama, all I ask -- all I beg for -- is one thing. It doesn't have to be the president himself. It can be a senator, a congressman, some minor functionary, a powerless aide -- I don't care. But will somebody please have the common decency to laugh convulsively until tears ruin his tie and he has to be carried helpless from the room?