In the gun control debate that is inevitably following the horrific massacre in Parkland, Donald Trump and the Republicans have a great opportunity to steal a key issue from the Democrats or, if they handle it wrong, they could be handing the Democrats an issue that could elevate them to power.
At first, Trump had it right. He proposed common sense gun controls that did not run afoul of the NRA agenda. His suggestions include raising the age for purchase of certain guns to 21, strengthening background checks and banning bump stocks, which can convert weapons into machine guns. In making these proposals, he was stealing the issue and demonstrating his compassion, flexibility and reasonableness. He was leaving the Democrats to haggle with him over policy details that they will not be able to translate into electoral issues.
But now he's giving politically obtuse support to arming teachers. Few people can debate knowledgeably the intricacies of gun regulation, but everybody has an opinion about arming teachers. And most are against it.
The idea conjures images of dear old Mrs. Plesser, who cuddled me on her lap in first grade, with a Smith & Wesson in her purse. Even with training, it is hard to see how civilians can learn to shoot straight enough to kill the gunman and not the children. Arming teachers would also encourage hostage taking and would likely lead to catastrophe.
True, armed teachers would deter some shooters, but so would a plethora of real live security guards in every school, akin to air marshals on flights. Retired ops and returning military could supply the manpower we would need. They might cost extra money, but if the issue is budgetary, the feds should step in with subsidies.
We should not let financial considerations force us to arm teachers. Why take a chance that one or two days of instruction can make teachers so proficient as to counter terrorists who have practiced their mayhem, potentially, for months or years?
Democrats can run on the issue of not arming teachers and Trump is a fool to hand it to them. Otherwise, Trump's decision to join in the efforts to strengthen gun controls to prevent such shootings makes a lot of sense both substantively and politically.
Trump also should embrace putting metal detectors in every school in America. This step, which can be done quickly, will afford demonstrable evidence that he is taking the problem seriously and is willing to step in with real solutions.
The Democrats are pathetically out of issues. The success of the Trump tax cut is leaving them with nothing to propose, nothing to say. The Parkland shooting came as a possible salvation for them politically (much as I am sure they genuinely abhorred the attack). It is the right of every president to change the debate by changing his position and Trump is on the right track.
But please, don't propose arming teachers. It will put wind back in the Democratic Party's sails.