In their press conference on Friday, in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the NRA proposed adding armed guards to elementary schools.
To be sure, learning does require a safe environment. Years ago, I worked in an elementary school in a rough neighborhood of Chicago helping students who were behind in math and reading. I remember one of my students who had excelled all year suddenly become uninterested in working and uncooperative in the tutoring sessions. When I spoke with the principal about it, she said, “His dad was shot. He got caught in gang crossfire.” She helped me to realize how little multiplication mattered when personal and familial safety was a worry.
Yet, I do not think an armed guard would help. I try to imagine an armed guard at my own kids’ school. I see the bobbing up and down of their backpacks as they trot into the building. I can also see how an armed guard would change the context to one of a police-like state, monitoring their movements, eying them with suspicion. Even if the guards were looking out for the students, the implication is clear: someone is coming for you. That fear cannot help but creep into the environment of a school and make learning more difficult.
I wish the NRA had said something like they were going to regulate the gun industry themselves. Like the movie industry or the video game industry or Underwriters Laboratories, they could give their stamp of approval to gun sellers who follow the laws or give ratings to those who go beyond them to help ensure those who purchase guns do not misuse them. It would seem to benefit gun sellers as the NRA approval would protect their public image as well as ensure the support of the NRA organization. This approach would seem to benefit gun users as it would deter those who misuse guns and thus lessen the political and popular pressure against their own gun use. It would seem to benefit the NRA as they could better secure the rights of gun users because there would be less government interference, the institution they see as most threatening to their rights. It would seem to benefit society because it would enlist another organization, especially one as powerful as the NRA, for deterring gun violence.
If I were honest with myself, I wish that they had gone further and noted that guns cannot perfectly secure us. Even if I were to defend my children by shooting an intruder, it would not bring me or my family peace. Yes, we might be alive, but the invasion of our home would have already occurred and our safety compromised. The image of me shooting another person would be seared into my and my childrens’ minds forever. Every day from then on that incident would be operative in our thinking. We would always be afraid.
Perhaps this desire is too much to expect for an organization that is not Christian (no matter how strong the association is between the two in the United States). As Christians we are called to place our faith in the God who is love and not in the principalities and powers of this world. We believe that only this love, which seems like “foolishness” in the face of violence, can defeat fear and death and bring peace and the fullness of life. This is what we proclaim at Christmas: the vulnerable child is king.
I know they could not have proclaimed this, but I wish they had at least not proclaimed “the gun is king” during this Christmas season.