Rahm Emanuel famously said that “you never want a serious crisis to go to waste,” and apparently that included the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre.
Two days after the horrific school shooting, the Chicago mayor advised then-Education Secretary Arne Duncan to “[t]ap peoples emotions” as they discussed how to leverage the tragedy to push for gun-control restrictions, according to emails published Wednesday by the Baltimore Post.
“What are your thoughts?” asked Mr. Duncan in an email with the subject line “CT shootings” dated Dec. 16, 2012.
Mr. Emanuel advised him to move quickly. “Go for a vote this week asap before it fades,” he said. “Tap peoples emotion. Make it simple assault weapons.”
Mr. Duncan replied, “Yup- thanks,” to which Mr. Emanuel responded, “When I did brady bill and assault weapons for Clinton we always made it simple. Criminals or war weapons.”
The 10-minute exchange came about two years after Mr. Emanuel, who served for five years as senior adviser to President Bill Clinton, left his post as White House chief of staff under President Barack Obama to enter the 2011 Chicago mayoral race.
Continued Mr. Duncan: “Gun show loophole? Database? Cop-killer bullets? Too complicated?”
Replied Mr. Emanuel: “Cop killer maybe. The other no,” to which Mr. Duncan replied, “Got it.”
The emails were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request submitted last summer to the Education Department, according to the Baltimore Post’s Ann Constantino.
Manhattan Institute senior fellow Max Eden called the political strategizing “shameful,” coming 48 hours after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, which left 20 children and six adult teachers and staff dead.
Six years later, Mr. Duncan has continued to advocate for tougher gun-control laws in the aftermath of school shootings in Parkland, Fla., and Santa Fe, Texas.
Hours after Friday’s shooting at Santa Fe High School, which left 10 dead, Mr. Duncan endorsed a proposal by former Obama education assistant secretary Peter Cunningham for parents to hold their children out of school until Congress approves gun-control legislation.
At the same time, Mr. Duncan has faced backlash over the Obama administration’s “Rethink School Discipline” initiative, which resulted in the 2014 Dear Colleague letter calling on K-12 schools to eliminate racial disparities in suspensions, expulsions and arrests.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is considering rescinding the guidance amid complaints from parents and teachers about classroom chaos at schools that have dramatically reduced traditional discipline under threat of a federal civil-rights probe.
Nicole and Josh Landers, co-founders of the Parent2Parent Network in Baltimore County, said the email exchange “demonstrates a shocking political conspiracy to draw upon an agenda rather than focus on the murders of 20 school children and 6 educators from Sandy Hook.”
Ms. Landers, who participated in last month’s roundtable discussion on school discipline with Ms. DeVos, has decried the 2014 federal guidance’s impact on school safety and the learning environment.
“It appears that former Secretary Duncan was and is using the gun control platform to deflect from his failed educational policies which have negatively impacted nearly 51 million students and over 3 million teachers nationwide,” they said in a statement.