Following the horrific school shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida that left 17 dead including students, teachers and staff members, the National Rifle Association (NRA) has some serious damage control and explaining to do.
Already, several large companies like MetLife, LifeLock and First National Bank of Omaha have announced that they are cutting ties with the organization, and Bank of America says they are “re-examining” its relationship.
Last Wednesday night, CNN hosted a heated gun control town hall following the Stoneman Douglas shooting and they invited an official NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch to explain the organization’s positions and what they plan to do to reduce the number of school shootings in America.
While Republican senator Marco Rubio was skewered by the rightfully outraged town hall audience, many of the jabs and boos were directed at Loesch. She made several questionable claims in response to the community’s calls for gun control, so let’s break down each one of them to identify which are justifiable and which are outright B.S. Spoiler alert: it’s mostly the latter.
1. No one with a mental illness should get their hands on any weapon.
This first one is a somewhat valid claim. Of course, anyone who is diagnosed as being a danger to themselves or others should not be able to get a firearm. However, using a blanket term like mentally ill creates an unfair caricature of anyone who struggles with mental health as a violent person. Mental illness can be extended to people who suffer from anxiety, OCD and other things, so there is a danger when painting with broad strokes.
If someone is a clear danger to themselves or other people, they shouldn’t be able to own any weapon, much less a firearm. Even those most extreme right-wing nuts could probably get onboard with this idea.
2. There needs to be reform in the reporting of people with mental health issues to local, state and federal law enforcement and how law enforcement follows up on red flags.
While many people in attendance shouted at Loesch and tried to boo her to the point that no one could hear what she was saying, there are serious questions about how the shooter was able to pass a background check and how every level of law enforcement seemed to turn a blind eye to every possible red flag that you could have when it comes to this mentally ill school shooter.
Where Loesch and many other gun advocates are wrong about mental health is that they hide behind it in an effort to deflect an actual conversation about guns. When you ask gun control advocates about mental health, you think “OK, there’s definitely a big mental health problem that needs to be addressed in this country.” But then when you ask a group of NRA supporters (let’s face it – mostly Republicans) to support funding for mental health, the response is either an outright “no” or there’s nothing but the sound of crickets and the sight of tumbleweed rolling through an abandoned town.
Every country in the world has mental health issues, but there’s one thing that other countries don’t have that we do, which is the staggeringly high amount of gun violence and mass shootings. According to CNN, Americans own nearly half of the estimated 650 million civilian-owned guns worldwide and gun homicide rates are 25.2 times higher in the US than in other high-income countries.
The NRA is using mental illness, a genuine concern all over the world, to deflect this country’s gun problem – a problem that is just unique to the United States.
3. We shouldn’t increase the required age to purchase assault weapons from 18 to 21.
Loesch said that since 18-year-olds are allowed to join the military, vote and drive a car, they should be allowed a firearm. However, it’s worth noting that you can’t rent a car until you’re 25 and cars are much more regulated than guns, given that you need to pass a series of tests and requirements first. One Twitter user also rightly pointed out that regardless of age, you can’t even bring a water bottle on plane, but somehow an 18-year-old owning an assault rifle is perfectly fine.
Loesch later brought up an instance of a college student under the age of 21 who was raped and later claimed that she wished she was allowed to own a shotgun. I’m also guessing that, in retrospect, she would’ve liked to have any possible weapon in that situation, whether it be a knife, a baseball bat or any object that could have helped her escape. This student was still allowed to own a handgun if she felt unsafe, which likely would’ve more than sufficed in that situation and it doesn’t justify her needing a shotgun.
Loesch mentioned this story strategically in order to play the sympathy card by telling an anecdotal personal story when the fact is that there are few instances of guns preventing or stopping rapes or assaults.
It is also worth noting that people who have guns in their homes are far more likely to be hurt or killed with those same guns than to ever stop a home invasion or assault. This is another case of the NRA trying to suggest small changes to the gun laws when in fact this crisis will require far more comprehensive changes than just a few small edits to legislation.
4. I needed a shotgun because I lived alone when I was 20.
It’s completely reasonable for any young female or any female who lives alone or often goes out alone to want to have some kind of self-defense tactics, whether that be self-defense classes, pepper spray or even a handgun. It’s sad and frankly unfair that when women go out or even stay in, they have to be very vigilant at all times, but to simply suggest that a good solution would be to arm women with shotguns or other semi-automatic assault weapons is both ridiculous and problematic. Again, Loesch gives no explanation or specifics in regards to the owning of an assault weapon over a handgun.
Semi-automatic weapons are problematic for several reasons. Retired Army officer Ralph Peters wrote in an op-ed for the New York Post about why these weapons shouldn’t be available for civilians:
No private citizen should own an automatic weapon or a semi-automatic weapon that can easily be modified for automatic effects. These are military weapons. Their purpose is to kill human beings. They’re not used for hunting (unless you want to destroy the animal’s meat). They’re lousy for target shooting. But they’re excellent tools for mass murder.
Many of the recent American mass shooters have picked semi-automatic or modified weapons with a bump stock as their preferred weapon of choice and there’s no reason to extend the use of these weapons to civilians, even in the event of self-defense or hunting.
5. I wish CNN gave more coverage to gun control reform.
This claim is straight out of President Trump’s “fake news” playbook and it’s an obvious case of a red herring to distract from the NRA’s view of guns and also shift blame from the NRA to literally anyone else, especially since the American media is absurdly viewed as a liberal institution.
Not only is it unfair scapegoating, it’s also inaccurate. Every time there is a school shooting in this country, every major TV news network brings on a panel of political commentators who endlessly argue about guns and they often discuss school shootings to the point of sensationalizing when they discuss the shooter’s previous background and when they often insensitively hound the friends or families of the victims to relive their trauma over and over again. The problem is not lack of coverage on gun control, especially given the current 24/7 TV news cycle that we live in.
6. An 18-year-old with an assault military rifle should qualify as a “well-regulated militia.”
Loesch alluded to George Mason’s interpretation of the term “well-regulated militia” (the term used in 2nd amendment of the U.S. Constitution) because Mason believed that it meant the American people. Though liberals will disagree with Mason’s interpretation, that’s fair enough. But if you take a step back, does it really make sense to derive our morals from people who came centuries before? Whether or not the founding fathers unanimously believed that Mason’s interpretation was correct, shouldn’t we as a government just do what makes sense now, regardless of what was done before?
Americans often get into political arguments where they claim “the founding fathers would have wanted this” or “Washington and Lincoln would be turning over in their graves if they saw what was happening today.” But why even develop our moral framework from people who owned slaves or from the European settlers who largely wiped out the Native Americans who were rightly here first? Why can’t we as a nation, like many other countries, distance ourselves from our ugly history and stop fetishizing our presidents as gods and our constitution as some biblical text, so that we can just do what we believe is just in today’s world?
Loesch claimed that when the second amendment was passed, there were semi-automatic weapons available, it wasn’t just muskets. According to The Washington Post, semiautomatic firearms technology didn’t exist in any meaningful sense when the 2nd amendment was written and the typical firearms of the day were, in fact, muskets and flintlock pistols. The publication also reported that the typical Revolutionary-era musket could fire approximately three rounds per minute with maximum range of 50 meters while a typical modern-day AR-15 can fire approximately 45 rounds per minute with a maximum range of 550 meters.
After all, do we really think that the original legislation was written with the idea that weapons would eventually develop into the war machines that they are now?
7. An effective way to prevent school shootings is to increase school security measures.
Loesch suggested that implementing things like reinforcing doors, checkpoint systems, school IDs and other security measures into our schools would be a good way to combat school shootings. But do we really have to turn our schools into high security prisons in order to ensure that students don’t get shot at while they simply try to get an education? The use of metal detectors, pat-downs and armed security guards in schools begins to cultivate the distrust and divide between young people and police and the increase of armed security guards in schools has largely led to the writing up of unnecessary citations for students due to minor misconduct, not attempted shootings.
While these security measures wouldn’t be bad to have in the event of a school shooting, this is another distraction from the actual source of the problem: guns. Many people argue “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Actually, mentally ill people with guns are killers, but mentally ill people without guns simply aren’t. If you take away the means to shoot people (i.e. a gun), then people don’t get shot. It’s not rocket science. Places like Australia have already demonstrated through government measures like gun buy-backs that if you significantly decrease the amount of guns, the result is less shootings. It’s as simple as that.
8. An effective solution to mass shootings is “good guys with guns.”
When the students of Stoneman Douglas return to school, there will be armed security guards at the Florida high school.
Rather stunningly, it was reported that the armed school resource deputy at Stoneman Douglas waited outside the school building as the shooting was underway and he later resigned. Clearly the presence of armed guards at school doesn’t necessarily guarantee that they’ll be willing to intervene and confront a shooter, especially one with an assault weapon.
Having armed guards at school can cause problems, especially if a security guard thinks someone has a gun, but it turns out to be just a false alarm. We all know that cops in this country have a far from squeaky clean record when it comes to approaching armed or even unarmed perceived suspects, especially in regards to African American suspects. The solution to gun violence is never more guns.
9. If teachers want to be armed, that decision should be up to parents and school districts.
While Loesch didn’t explicitly say that we should arm the teachers, she did say that it should be up to parents and school districts to decide if this is something they should implement. Again, not only is adding more guns not a good idea, it also places an absurd ask on the part of teachers who are just there to educate students. There is nothing practical about training a teacher to shoot their own students who they’re devoted to educating.
Many teachers at this town hall even said that this is not something they would be willing to undergo and parents also voiced their concerns about the possibility of their children’s teachers being armed. Also, what if a teacher’s gun were to fall into the wrong hands? Teachers are already underpaid and undervalued by our society in general, so adding the burden of firearm training is absolutely out of the question and it would not make anyone safer.
The fact of the matter is that more guns means more deaths, not fewer. According to the investigative reporting magazine, Mother Jones, higher levels of gun ownership are linked to higher gun-related deaths. Also, a 2015 study conducted by researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard University, using data from the FBI and the CDC, reported that firearm assaults were 6.8 times more common in the states with the most guns versus those with the least.
10. If I could change time, I would have done everything in my power to prevent this school shooting.
This statement is perhaps the most ridiculous of all the claims that Loesch made last week. When you represent an organization that has set back the American political discourse on guns by likely decades, there is no way to declare innocence. Think of all the money that has flowed into our “democracy” because of the NRA and think of all the votes that were compromised when it comes to common sense legislation that has failed time and time again.
Anyone who has accepted from or donated money to that organization has blood on their hands, particularly because many of these mass shootings we have seen over the past decade or even from the past few years were the result of semi-automatic and fully-automatic weapons, something that the majority of Americans oppose. To say that we we live in a democracy when the majority of Americans support universal background checks, an assault weapons ban and the ban of anyone owning a firearm who is on the “no-fly list,” when none of these things have been passed really just tells you everything you need to know about the NRA and the millions of dollars they use annually to compromise our politicians.
Watch CNN’s full gun control town hall from last week here and watch a clip of Loesch during the town hall below.