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  • President Donald Trump runs with conservative media’s horrible idea of arming teachers

    Even the NRA used to have a “zero tolerance” position against arming teachers

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    President Donald Trump is pushing a fringe idea to arm school teachers that has been promoted by conservative media and the National Rifle Association (NRA) in the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL.

    Trump made the proposal during a February 22 meeting at the White House, suggesting that armed teachers could receive a pay bonus. He also defended the idea on Twitter, promising that it would end attacks at schools:

    Trump continued to push armed teachers during his speech at CPAC: 

    According to NBC News, “Gun violence experts, educators, and school safety advocates immediately panned the idea.”

    Trump’s outrageous proposal has its roots in the aftermath of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. After that attack, conservative media figures increasingly began pushing the idea of arming teachers, and the proposal was also backed in a post-Sandy Hook report issued by the NRA. The push to arm teachers has come full circle, with conservative media now celebrating the president’s adoption of their idea.

    There is no evidence that arming teachers will stop school shootings. Even the NRA used to acknowledge this fact. After the 1999 mass shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, CO, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre gave a speech at the gun group’s annual meeting where he said, “We believe in absolutely gun-free, zero-tolerance, totally safe schools. That means no guns in America's schools, period ... with the rare exception of law enforcement officers or trained security personnel.”

    Even armed individuals with extensive firearms training have failed to stop school shootings. In the case of the Stoneman Douglas shooting, an armed deputy present at the school took a defensive position outside the building where the shooting was taking place and never went inside to confront the gunman, contrary to  department policies. At Columbine, an armed police officer present at the high school attempted to fire on one of the shooters, but was quickly pinned down by the greater firepower of the shooter's assault weapon. Jeanne Assam, a retired police officer who did actually stop a gun rampage at a Colorado church in 2007, has rejected the notion of arming teachers, telling CNN in 2012 that “a teacher wants to be a teacher. He or she doesn't want to be a police officer” before concluding that the proposal is “ridiculous.”

    Proposals to arm teachers do not appreciate the reality of the highly chaotic scene an active shooter incident creates. According to the Violence Policy Center, research has shown that “trained law enforcement officials have only an average 20 percent hit ratio in armed confrontations, meaning that only 20 percent of shots fired hit the intended target.”

    Some states already allow teachers to carry guns, although it’s unclear whether the educators widely adopt the practice. But when armed teachers make headlines, it is not for stopping school shooters. As HuffPost noted:

    In September 2014 at Idaho State University, a teacher accidentally shot himself in the foot when his concealed handgun discharged. Students in the chemistry class watched.

    Later that month at a Utah elementary school, a teacher carrying a concealed weapon accidentally shot herself in the leg as she used the restroom.

    In 2016, a group of elementary school students in Pennsylvania found a loaded gun in the bathroom after a teacher accidentally left it behind.

    In general, the presence of firearms makes people less safe. Research has demonstrated time and time again that keeping a gun in the home increases the risk of homicide, suicide, and unintentional shootings. The concealed carry of firearms -- which conservative media claim without evidence to be a solution to mass public shootings -- also makes people less safe. Instead of preventing crime, laws allowing permissive gun carry increase violent crime and are particularly associated with aggravated assault.

    In addition to carrying out their teaching responsibilities, teachers, if armed, would be tasked with preventing students from accessing their firearm. As Lily Eskelsen García, president of National Education Association, explained in a statement opposing Trump’s proposal, “Educators need to be focused on teaching our students. We need solutions that will keep guns out of the hands of those who want to use them to massacre innocent children and educators.” And as Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, noted, “We don’t want to be, and would never have the expertise needed to be, sharp shooters; no amount of training can prepare an armed teacher to go up against an AR-15.”

  • Trump parties with a birther who floated protecting schools from mass shooters with armed drones 

    Wayne Allyn Root spent a “magical evening” with Trump, alongside Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera, from whom Trump already echoed a talking point

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    On February 17, after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL that left at least 17 students and adults dead, far-right Trump supporter, birther, and conspiracy theorist Wayne Allyn Root tweeted at President Trump that it is “time to consider armed drones at every school in USA”:

    Hours later, Root tweeted about the “amazing night” he had with President Trump at Mar-a-Lago.

    Wayne Allyn Root is a talk show host and columnist for the Sheldon Adelson-owned Las Vegas Review-Journal who regularly pushes bizarre conspiracy theories. He helped spread fabricated reports of Puerto Rican truck drivers striking in the wake of Hurricane Maria in an attempt to make Trump look bad, claimed that Trump was “being victimized” by violence at his campaign rallies (and claimed media was blaming the victim), and fabricated a Seinfeld quote to attack President Obama, whom he called the “Marxist-in-Chief” and swore was a “foreign exchange student” at Columbia University. Root also pushes racist viewpoints. He claimed that “there’s no difference in when you call someone old versus when you call someone the N-word” and dismissed the 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, VA as “paid actors & infiltrators hired by Soros.” 

    Regarding mass shootings, Root is no better: he claimed a real estate developer’s fine was a bigger story than the Parkland shooting and has repeatedly blamed the Las Vegas massacre on ISIS and/or antifa

    Joining Trump and Root at the “magical evening” at Mar-a-Lago was Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera. As CNN’s Brian Stelter noted on Reliable Sources, Rivera appeared on Fox News on Saturday morning to suggest that the FBI missed tips about the Parkland shooter because of an obsession with the Russia probe. Stelter pointed out that, according to The Washington Post, Rivera “had dinner with President Trump,” and that at 11:00 that same night, Trump tweeted the claim Rivera had shared earlier on Fox News. The claim is, of course, “nonsensical,” as Stelter explained:

    It's clear the president is feeling the heat of Robert Mueller's special counsel, and he's lashing out, implying that the FBI might have failed to stop the shooting because it's too obsessed with Russia. Let's be clear: The president is insulting your intelligence. Let's pull up FBI.gov, it says right there, "The FBI employs 35,000 people." 

    There are a small number of FBI agents working on the Mueller probe, but they have nothing to do with the investigation of tips like the one that was missed before the Parkland shooting.

  • Fox & Friends follows Infowars in running with right-wing video attacking college students

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Fox News’ Fox & Friends and far-right conspiracy theory website Infowars both ran with the conservative activist group Campus Reform’s latest selectively edited hit piece against college students. Fox & Friends further edited the video and showed students' responses without giving much context to the nature of the questions that were posed to them. 

    Campus Reform is a discredited conservative group funded by right-wing dark money networks that takes students and professors out of context to fearmonger about perceived instances of liberal bias on college campuses. In its latest video, Campus Reform Media Director Cabot Phillips lied to students at New York University (NYU), telling them that President Donald Trump had already delivered his State of the Union address (the speech will take place January 30).

    Phillips gave the students fabricated information about what Trump said in the speech and asked for their thoughts. The video on Campus Reform's website features some of those questions. But on Fox & Friends, the hosts and Philips didn't always mention what he specifically asked the students, airing only the responses to his deceptive questions. For example, in the video posted on Campus Reform, Philips told some students: "One of the craziest moments [was] when he started a 'build the wall' chant with all the Republicans that were there. People on social media were accusing him of basically using the State of the Union as a campaign event." Fox deceptively aired only a response to this statement in which a woman said, "The fact that he started a chant, he's big on those."

    Alex Jones’ conspiracy theorist site Infowars and Fox & Friends have both given credence to the video. Fox’s flagship morning show aired parts of the video and hosted Phillips for an interview where they proceeded to mock the students.

    From the January 29 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

    AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): President Trump set to give his first State of the Union address tomorrow. So what happens when college students are asked about the speech before it actually takes place? Campus Reform went to NYU to find out. Watch.

    [BEGIN VIDEO]

    CABOT PHILLIPS (CAMPUS REFORM): What was your reaction to everything that was said?

    UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: I didn’t watch it because I couldn’t bring myself to watch it.

    UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Quite racist at the very least, if not up there with most racist.

    UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Hopefully everything that he’s outlined can be overturned by the public opinion.

    [END CLIP]

    BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): Yes. Exactly. It’s called voting. Here now to discuss is CampusReform.org correspondent Cabot Phillips. So, Cabot, welcome back. So the premise was, let’s ask people about a speech that hasn’t happened yet.

    PHILLIPS: Exactly.

    KILMEADE: And what was the NYU reaction?

    PHILLIPS: The reaction was overwhelming disapproval of this speech, which should be encouraging for President Trump because there’s nowhere but up from here because they haven't actually heard any speech. It hasn't happened. But we’ve been hearing so long how the left has shut down anything that has to do with President Trump, with conservatism. And most conservatives assume it's not based on facts. It's based on rhetoric. It’s based on feelings, and this kind of proves that. And isn't it ironic, too, that these are supposed to be the most open-minded segment of society, the left. But, yet, they’re not coming in with an open mind to Trump's presidency or to conservatism at all. They shut down completely without actually knowing the facts.

    EARHARDT: Did you have anyone, one or two at least, that said this speech hasn't happened yet?

    PHILLIPS: Not one person was able to tell me the speech did not happen.

    EARHARDT: Really?

    PHILLIPS: There were a few that said I don't want to go on the record. I'm not entirely sure what was said. But one thing that -- every college campus I go to with Campus Reform, there's always one thing in common, and it's that there is an overwhelming pressure and bias to hate President Trump at all costs, even if there are no facts there.