Trump’s Gun Plan is Wrong on Law, Stupid on Facts and Contradictory
If anyone has mastered the art of talking a lot, but saying nothing, it’s Donald Trump. Monday, in a gem of his signature circle-talking, the GOP frontrunner ranted:
“I don’t want to have guns in classrooms, although in some cases teachers should have guns in classrooms, frankly,” Trump said. “Because . . . things that are going on in our schools are unbelievable.”
“I’m not advocating guns in classrooms,” Trump added. “But remember in some cases . . . trained teachers should be able to have guns in classrooms.”
Later, in a typical Trump backtracking maneuver, he tweeted the following:
Crooked Hillary said that I want guns brought into the school classroom. Wrong!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 22, 2016
Trump’s branded angry-rhetoric-before-logic style worked its magic at a recent NRA rally, in which Trump promised to undo the Gun Free School Zone Act (GFSZA) as soon as he gets into the oval office. This isn’t the first time Trump has invoked GFSZA as a means of exciting NRA members. It has become one of his go-to points of incitement. To round out his agenda of absurdity, Trump has added “eliminate gun-free zones” to his wall, immigration ban, and Chinese trade embargo. As we’ve come to expect from Trump, his childish rhetoric about the GFSZA is wrong on the law, stupid on the facts, and contradictory on his position.
Trump’s premise, asinine as it is, is that school violence will be prevented by teachers having guns in classrooms. Let’s just put the utter lunacy of that suggestion aside for a moment. Even if we wanted to have teachers strap on Glocks before reading “The Hungry Caterpillar,” we wouldn’t need to repeal FGSZA to do so. For someone who is hell-bent on throwing out the GFSZA, it’s pretty clear that Trump hasn’t actually read the act. The statute already says that guns are perfectly legal within school zones in a number of circumstances, including when the gun is possessed:
- by an individual for use in a program approved by a school in the school zone;
- by an individual in accordance with a contract entered into between a school in the school zone and the individual or an employer of the individual; or
- by a law enforcement officer acting in his or her official capacity.
The GFSZA, signed into law by George H.W. Bush in 1990, pretty clearly aims to increase the penalty for bad guys having guns in school zones. Sure, there are gun lovers who hate the GFSZA because it puts any restriction on their second amendment rights. But most people with moderate attitudes about guns are pretty satisfied with what the GFSZA does – so long as they get their information from the law itself, and not from Trump. Under the, non-Trumped language of GFSZA, anyone already authorized to carry a gun to provide school security is still welcome to do so.
Additionally, GFSZA has a canyon-sized exception covering responsible gun possession, for other individuals not part of some guns-at-every-desk program:
“if the individual possessing the firearm is licensed to do so by the State in which the school zone is located or a political subdivision of the State, and the law of the State or political subdivision requires that, before an individual obtains such a license, the law enforcement authorities of the State or political subdivision verify that the individual is qualified under law to receive the license;”
Under the GFSZA, individuals can have all the guns they wish, even in school zones, as long as those guns are properly licensed. That doesn’t exactly sound like a radical trampling of the Second Amendment rights.
But the reality of the terms of this federal statute is as irrelevant to Trump as is the Constitutional limits of his presidential power if he were to be elected. After all, it plays much better to the NRA crowd for Trump to characterize GFSZA as sweeping, restrictive legislation, and then to declare that he will single-handedly eradicate that legislation. Trump just can’t resist. He knows that a president lacks the authority to undo federal legislation by passing an executive order. Sidebar: the correct use of executive orders has been illustrated by President Obama, who issued such an order to direct federal agencies to enforce existing gun laws. But reality has never deterred Trump before, and gun legislation is far too complex a subject to interfere with his determination to pull voters into his fictional world.
Trump appears to know as little about law as he does about crime. Back in January, Trump said, “you know what a gun-free zone is for a sicko? That’s bait.”
Trump is confusing “gun-free zone” with “school.” Obviously, if a deranged shooter were going to be titillated by the desire to do maximum harm, that shooter would be lured by the fact that masses of children inhabit school zones. Homicidal maniacs aren’t sitting around analyzing federal statutes to assess the precise perimeter inside which harsher legal penalties would apply. Criminal laws are drafted in response to patterns of human behavior. The violent, often mentally-ill people who commit serious crimes are motivated by psychosis, not by statutory language. There’s a little concept called cause-and-effect that Trump may want to look into.
And now, it’s time to get back to the facts that underlie Trump’s pandering. Even if there were a legal mechanism by which Trump could unilaterally get guns into classrooms, the resulting danger would mean a level of absurdity that is unprecedented, even for Trump. How would such a plan work? Would teachers be given firearms training along with lesson-planning guidance? Would teachers be expected to wear ankle-holsters, or to keep their guns in lock-boxes next to the crayons? Who would be liable when a student shoots himself while the teacher is focused on proctoring a standardized test? Would teachers’ rights to hazard pay become the next union battle?
Let’s be real. Trump isn’t actually planning to give guns to schoolteachers. He isn’t actually planning to repeal the GFSZA. He is simply doing what he does best – saying words and hoping those words make people like him. Trump isn’t the problem: Trump is the symptom. When thousands of people are energized by an irrational promise to eradicate practical, sensible legislation, we should worry. When those crowds cheer at a reckless and hyperbolic pledge to pack our classrooms with firearms, we should be truly afraid.