The NRA's Anti-Obama Ad Is Not Only Tasteless But Also Totally Unrealistic
Some people are calling the NRA's new anti-Obama ad a thinly veiled threat against the president's children. I doubt that this was its intent, but nonetheless, it's well beyond poor taste to use Obama's kids to make a point. (And it's absurd on its face: Like Jenna and Barbara Bush before them, Sasha and Malia get protection at school, as do all US presidents' children. It's called the Secret Service.) Between this and the Shooting Range app recently released by the NRA on iOS devices, the lobbying group's public-relations wing is failing miserably.
Now let's take a look at the substance of the ad itself: The NRA wants to staff every school in America with armed guards, and the president is "an elitist hypocrite" for being skeptical of the idea.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2009-10 there were 98,817 public schools, 33,366 private schools, and 6,742 two-year and four-year colleges in America. Assuming that many of the colleges and at least some of the schools already have security and that private schools would require private funding for private security, that still leaves somewhere in the neighborhood of 100,000 schools with no armed security staff.
Hiring an armed guard for each of these would be enormously expensive, especially since these guards would need extensive background checks and would require expensive equipment and training, as well as benefits, pensions, and so forth. While many Americans have indeed expressed support for this sort of measure in recent polling, the public often supports expensive plans with little attention to the cost.
With its argument for getting rid of all "gun-free zones" in the country—which relies on fallacy rather than real data—the NRA has also recommended staffing these 100,000 public schools with armed volunteers: Retired police officers or ex-military types who would bring their guns to schools across the country each day—vigilantes of a sort, with the power of life and death just a trigger finger away.
Of course, assuming we could rally 100,000 full-time volunteer guards (or many more part-time guards) and then vet each of them properly, one has to ask whether we'd trust our nations' children in their hands. Would these retirees themselves pose some possible danger? Would they be able to stop a shooter should one attack? The armed security at Columbine and Virginia Tech proved incapable of stopping those mass shootings, and shooting rampages have rarely if ever been stopped this way.