As the one-year anniversary of the December 14, 2012, mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School approaches, National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent is blaming “the self-inflicted scourge of political correctness” for the shooting that claimed the lives of 20 children and six educators in Newtown, Connecticut.
In his regular column for conspiracy website WND, Nugent wrote on December 11 that unless America followed a series of his policy recommendations -- including arming teachers, eliminating “gun-free zones,” and getting “deranged people off the streets” -- “then those precious little 20 children and their six teachers and faculty members at Sandy Hook Elementary died for nothing.”
He also explained mass shootings as a product of “political correctness” run rampant in society:
The first lesson we should take away from the Sandy Hook massacre is that the self-inflicted scourge of political correctness has dumbed down America enough to allow the conditions to continue to exist that will facilitate another twisted individual capable of doing the same thing to flounder about our society. In fact, it already happened at the Washington Naval Yard. It is going to happen again. And again.
There is no evidence, however, that Nugent's recommendations would prevent school shootings or reduce gun violence generally.
Channeling the NRA's first-post Newtown comments, Nugent claimed that, “The only way to stop a madman with a gun is a good guy or two with guns. Nothing else will work.” Thus, according to Nugent, “supporting arming teachers and other faculty members is clearly the right choice.”
In fact, an analysis of public mass shootings by Mother Jones that covered the past 30 years did not find a single mass shooting ended by an armed civilian. While the Obama administration and the National Education Association have supported funding for placing more armed members of law enforcement in schools, there is no evidence that the NRA and Nugent's unpopular proposal to arm teachers would prevent shootings.
According to research and past incidents, it is unclear if armed guards in general prevent mass shootings. An armed guard exchanged fire with the shooters during the 1999 Columbine High School massacre but was pinned down by the shooters' superior firepower, and the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre occurred at a school that had an emergency response team described as “like a SWAT team.”
In his column, Nugent made the common right-wing media claim that “gun-free zones are slaughter zones,” despite the lack of evidence that gun-free zones invite mass shootings. According to a September report from Mayors Against Illegal Guns that analyzed mass shootings between January 2009 and September 2013, “All told, no more than 14 of the shootings (15%) took place entirely in public spaces that were so-called 'gun-free zones.'”
Schools in particular -- where guns are typically not allowed -- are usually much safer for children than their surrounding communities and even their homes, even taking into account horrific shootings like Newtown. A December 10 Mother Jones article notes that 127 of the 194 children under the age of 12 killed by guns since Newtown were shot in their own homes “while dozens more died in the homes of friends, neighbors, and relatives.”
By comparison, since the Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics began recording homicides at schools in the 1992-3 school year, the proportion of youth homicides that occurred at school has never exceeded 2 percent of total youth homicides:
While accurately acknowledging that “the overwhelming majority of chronically mentally ill people are not violent,” Nugent nonetheless recommends unspecified means to “bring back the system that keeps dangerously deranged people off the streets.” Again, the evidence is against claims that gun violence can be solved by institutionalizing individuals with mental health conditions.
The problem with Nugent's recommendations is that they are based on conjecture that advances the NRA's agenda. By comparison, the Newtown shooting has produced serious policy recommendations for preventing future tragedies. In a December 11 report the Consortium for Risk-Based Firearm Policy -- comprised of gun violence and mental health experts -- used academic research as the basis for its recommendation that prohibitions on gun ownership should be expanded to categories of people -- such as individuals convicted of violent misdemeanors -- where the evidence shows an increased propensity to commit acts of violence.