Since the horrific shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, students both there, and then all around the country, have been on the forefront of a movement to change the way we deal with guns in the weapons-flooded United States.
The Douglas students and others taking up the cause have become celebrities, with their every Twitter diss and politician hounding recorded and dissected. But what makes them stand out more than anything is their directness. The students putting together the #NeverAgain movement have one focus: guns. They want to reduce shootings in the most straightforward way—by making it much more difficult for military-style weapons to end up in the hands of people likely to aim them at children.
As you might expect, though, politicians and lobbying groups want anything but that. The NRA and its assorted political shills, including President I’m Not Scared of the NRA himself, have thrown up roadblock after roadblock in order to avoid dealing with the fact that we are living in a country where both the populace and the police are armed to the teeth. In the month since the Parkland shooting, the Second Amendment absolutists (except when it comes to black people) have proffered three different ways to attempt to move the conversation away from guns.
Excuse Number 1: Hey, It Worked in the ’90s!
Dodge number one, courtesy of that orange guy, is quite a throwback. Violent video games, Trump claims, are to blame for school shootings. This is a trope that has been around since the aftermath of Columbine, even though there is no real evidence linking video games with real-world shootings.
The president is so attached to this idea, though—likely because it has absolutely nothing to do with gun control—that he recently had a White House meeting about the issue, inviting conservative “thinkers” like Media Research Council head Brent Bozell, a lazy man whose organization’s talking points sound suspiciously similar to those vomited out by GamerGate types.
But that’s only one dodge in the GOP/NRA arsenal. In case blaming mass shootings on video games fails (like skinny jeans, it didn’t work in the late ‘90s and it won’t work now), they’ve got plenty of other ammunition (pun obviously intended).
Excuse Number 2: Guns for Everyone
The second distraction adults are using involves attempting to decrease school shootings by putting more guns into schools. In the aftermath of Stoneman Douglas, Trump advocated for arming teachers—not coincidentally, a longtime NRA goal. Arming teachers is an insane idea, and the repercussions of popularizing it are already starting to be felt, as teachers have of late been firing off rounds in school buildings both accidentally and on purpose.
Excuse Number 3: Blame Obama
As if two disingenuous dodges weren’t enough, right wingers are now throwing out a third reason to talk about anything other than guns. On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that Trump and professional deer-in-headlights Betsy DeVos—the latter still recovering from messing up basic questions on 60 Minutes—are teaming up to blame recent school shootings on...Obama.
More properly, they’re blaming Obama-era attempts to deal with the fact that schools are hella racist when it comes to disciplining students. The Obama administration issued guidelines that attempted to address the way students of color were getting disproportionately punished or suspended.
But even a small attempt at racial justice is too much for Trump, a man who went out of his way to defend pitchfork wielding-white supremacists as “very fine people.” The president announced that the sister of a guy who founded a mercenary group (of course, most politicians—of any party—never make any connection between the U.S. solving problems with violence overseas and its citizens committing violent acts at home) would be looking to repeal Obama’s guidelines. This despite the fact that there has never been a black shooter in a high-profile school shooting, nor do the shootings themselves usually happen in urban schools. Instead, it’s at suburban, majority white schools—like Marjory Stoneman Douglas, whose student body is 61% white.
Despite the barrels of ink and hours of screen time these distractions are taking up, the students leading this movement are not buying it. They remain focused on a very simple idea—that the way to stop mass shootings is to deal head-on with the tools that are used to commit them. So on this day following a nationwide student walkout, let’s give a hearty congratulations and encouragement to the kids who are leading a movement that is refusing to take seriously the bad-faith dodges put out by politicians and lobbying groups who are too scared to deal with the problem head-on.