- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 25, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The reaction to the latest school shooting could have been predicted and is unfolding in just the way the massacre at Newtown, Connecticut, did back in 2013. Progressive politicians and their friends in the media are blaming not the shooter or those who ignored warnings about him or the lack of school security, but the National Rifle Association and the right of law-abiding Americans to purchase and own firearms.

They’re riding a wave of public outrage that we all understand and fueling it with liberal money from their Hollywood friends while the media exploits the victims and their families to demand the very same things they were demanding after the Newtown shootings.

They know that to get what they want, they have to stampede politicians to “do something” before the emotional wave runs its course and those responsible for “doing something” have a chance to consider what policies may or may not work to reduce the likelihood of future school shootings.

When legislators begin to focus on the actual proposals before them and start asking those who want to “do something” whether what they propose would prevent such tragedies in the future or whether they would have, if they’d been in place, would they have prevented what happened in Florida?

It turns out that “doing something” has more to do with demonizing gun ownership, restricting Second Amendment rights and “going after” the hated National Rifle Association than grappling with realistic proposals to protect the nation’s students from madmen and terrorists.

I had the singular honor of serving as the NRA president during the days following the Newtown tragedy and faced a hostile media and angry liberal politicians almost every day for a year.

When the NRA executive vice president suggested then that we should be focused not on restricting the rights of law abiding gun owners, but on making sure the background checks enacted in the 1990s were working and in providing actual security for our children, he was ridiculed by the Obama White House and by liberal pundits who dismissed the idea that sometimes the only way to stop a “bad guy” with a gun is a “good guy” with a gun.

I was in Israel when I heard the news of what had transpired at Newtown touring a training facility at which Israel trains private security guards to protect its schools and children from the sort of mass shootings that some years earlier resulted in more than 20 student deaths at an unprotected school. Today every Israeli school employs well trained, armed private security guards who have prevented a recurrence of that tragedy.

We went ahead in the face of media criticism to create a program we call “National School Shield.” The program was developed by a team of security, education and law enforcement experts assembled in the days following Newtown by Asa Hutchinson, a former U.S. attorney, congressman, Department of Homeland Security official and DEA head.

The team developed “best practices” and has since been training law enforcement personnel and others to provide assessments to schools seeking assistance on steps that might be taken up to and including posting armed security personnel in the schools or training armed school officials in how to protect their students from an armed intruder.

When Asa went on to become governor of Arkansas, I was asked to head and oversea the program and still do because I share his belief that school security is essential.

We recognized then that there is no easy answer, but since then security personnel and armed citizens have prevented numerous potential disasters at schools, churches and shopping malls. The public has realized that it is indeed true that sometimes a good guy with a gun is just what’s called for when a bad guy shows up carrying one and now roughly half the people of this country favor arming school personnel.

Like every official of the NRA, I spent a great deal of time back then pondering realistic measures beyond training security guards that might help. We continued to urge as we had been for years that the states be encouraged or even required to submit the records of convicted felons and the dangerously mentally ill to the government for inclusion in the NICS system so they couldn’t just walk in, pass a background check and buy a gun.

That still hasn’t been done as politicians more interested in grandstanding than problem solving continue to press for measures that would do little to make or schools safer, but allow them to brag that they’ve “done something.”

Maybe this time it will be different. The public realization that school security has to be a priority is new as is the fact that we now have a president who is willing to go beyond symbolism to consider what may or may not actually work to make our schools and public places safer without attacking either the Constitution or those who exercise the rights it guarantees.

And that is a very big difference. Gun owners may not agree with every idea that comes out of this administration and may oppose some, but will realize they are motivated by more than a simple desire to simply say “we did something.”

David A. Keene is an editor at large of The Washington Times and the former president of the National Rifle Association.

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