Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and received his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus, and Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith.

Some Serious Questions I Have For All Those “Good Guys With Guns”

 

So, you’re a good guy with a gun. I get it. I’ve seen the bumper sticker, heard the slogan a million times, and I even used to be one of you. I’m retired military, was an expert marksman, and was even awarded the Bronze Schützenschnur by the German army.

I was a bonafide good guy with a gun for most of my adult life thus far. But even in my most pro-gun days, the entire American motif of a good guy with a gun made me ask some hard questions– and left me feeling less and less comfortable with the whole concept.

I appreciate the basic sentiment of it all, really. I want my family to live in safety as well, and my desire-meter ranks precisely zero for how badly I’d like to die while standing in line at the deli.

However, this idea that the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun is really over-simplified. In fact, I think it is dangerously over-simplified and should really invite some hard questions for those would-be good guys with guns.

The first question this invites is, where will you keep it? Studies show that the presence of a gun in the home increases the likelihood that someone will get shot. Further, we have a growing problem in America of toddlers shooting people with guns they stumble upon. Will you at least keep it locked up in a gun safe where kids can’t access it?

I hope you’ll be that reasonable. But, if you do keep it locked up in a safe because you don’t want your kids getting their hands on it, that invites another question: What good would that do you in an emergency? I mean, having it inconveniently out of reach under lock and key sorta defeats the entire point, no?

But let’s say you resolve that issue– perhaps you’ll be one of those good guys with a gun who carries it everywhere. You strap it safely to your hip, have a hollow point in the chamber, and you’re locked and loaded. That too invites a whole additional line of questioning.

Perhaps the biggest question it invites is this: What qualifies you to be a good guy with a gun who is ready to end a human life at a moment’s notice? Is there some special qualification, or is the mere fact that you think highly of your personal character all the qualification you need?

Some states (like my home state of Maine) require no training at all to be a good guy with a concealed gun, while others require some sort of basic gun safety training. Let’s say you took one of these basic courses: Does a few hours or even a few days of training qualify you to be making life or death decisions in a split second while shopping in Walmart?

If it does, why do the military and law enforcement constantly train? Why not give our professional good guys a few hours of training on a Saturday, hand them a gun, and call it good?

Let’s give the benefit of the doubt for a moment, and consider that you’re an expert on gun safety and an expert marksman. That still leaves a bigger question: Have you taken “kill or no kill” training? Like, lots and lots of it where you decide if someone lives or dies, on the spot and in less than a second? Because that’s what you’ll have to do in real life as a good guy with a gun.

It’s one thing to be a decent person who owns a gun and is trained on the mechanics of how to use it, but what about split-second judgement calls when a human life is in the balance? This is why professional arms bearers repeatedly take kill or no kill training– it’s not enough to be ready to shoot, one needs to have the ability to decide if to shoot at all.

Let me ask you a hypothetical: let’s say you’re standing in the movie isle at Walmart and you hear gunfire and people screaming. You quickly remember that you’re a good guy with a gun, so you draw your weapon and run to the end of the isle. Once you get there, you see a guy with his own gun drawn, and is pointing it in the opposite direction as you.

Do you kill him while you have a clean shot?

How do you know he’s the shooter and not good-guy Jeff who is trying to save the day? You only have a second to decide, so is Jeff a terrorist or one of the good guys? Should he live or die? What if you hesitate too long and he kills another person? What if you shoot too soon and find out that Jeff was the father of four kids and a super nice guy with a gun?

Are you really comfortable deciding who lives and who dies with limited information, surging adrenaline, and total chaos? 

And what about the cops? Let’s say they arrive at this active shooter scene, and they see you in aisle number 4 with your gun drawn. Do you expect them to just intrinsically know you’re a good guy with a gun? They only have a second to decide too– and now your life hangs in the balance.

So, you’re a good guy with a gun. I get it.

But have you wrestled with these questions? Politicians and gun makers like to simplify the entire aspect of being a good guy with a gun, as if the average good-hearted Joe is qualified and has the ability to make life or death decisions on a dime. And, if it really were that simple, I’d understand.

But the reality is, it’s not that simple.

Guns, when used properly, end life. Once you pull the trigger there’s no taking the bullet back. There’s no do-overs in this game, and not the slightest room for even partial error.

While I appreciate the sentiment of wanting to protect one’s family, I hope you’ll at least ask yourself some of these hard questions– because being a good guy with a gun isn’t as simple as they’d lead you to believe.

The Daily Show recently took on this issue, and tried to find out if basic gun training was enough to be a good guy with a gun. Here’s what they found out:

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Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is a cultural anthropologist, public theologian, writer, speaker, global traveler, and tattoo collector. He is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell with graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies, and went on to receive his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, and Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus. In addition to his blog, Formerly Fundie, his work has been regularly featured by a wide array of media outlets such as TIME magazine and CNN, among others.

BLC

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is a cultural anthropologist, public theologian, writer, speaker, global traveler, and tattoo collector. He is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell with graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies, and went on to receive his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, and Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus. In addition to his blog, Formerly Fundie, his work has been regularly featured by a wide array of media outlets such as TIME magazine and CNN, among others.

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  • Amy Zucker Morgenstern says:

    Thanks, Mr. Corey. I wrote about my own family’s experience of violence and what a “good guy with a gun” meant, or could have meant, in our tragedies. Your perspective as a well-intentioned gun owner adds a lot.

    https://sermonsinstones.com/2013/06/03/deadly-myth/

  • Charles_Ott says:

    I’ve been reading through this comment stack, and I think it perfectly illustrates why sensible people no longer try to have discussions with gun-lovers. I’m sure this comment will attract the same response as this article: furious attacks using good logic, bad logic and no logic, without discrimination. Can you pro-gun folks see that it’s no longer worthwhile to talk to you?

  • Nimblewill says:

    You will never know who the “real” good guys with guns are.

  • spunkets says:

    “What qualifies you to be a good guy with a gun who is ready to end a human life at a moment’s notice?”

    Self defense and the defense of freedom are the only “qualifications” needed. The right to self defense derives directly from the right to life and the right of sovereignty of will of every sentient rational being. Rights are simple declarative statements identifying essential characteristics of any sentient rational being, that if violated, diminish the very essence of that being. That’s why there are rights to life, sovereignty of will and property, but no right to health care or any other service, because a service is not an essential element or characteristic of that individual person.

    Freedom is the condition where folks honor and respect the rights of their fellows, including the right of sovereignty of will, from which freedom of religion, conscience, property and effective self defense derive, in conjunction with the right to life. Fighting for freedom and one’s rights are the only justifiable reasons for fighting and war, which is simply a clash of wills involving violence. Neither rights, nor freedom can be forced upon someone, unlike all other reasons for the use of force. That is why every other justification for fighting simply amounts to no more than forcing one’s will upon another in violation of their rights. That includes by proxy, such as might be justified by some democratic process, which in that case amounts to nothing less than mob action.

    Your scenario is simple. Anyone that makes a decision to challenge an active shooter, a bad guy, whether they’re wearing a badge or not, are acting lawfully only to protect innocent life. That means they have a duty to protect the rights of everyone else absolutely. Discovering a shooter with their back turned to you means that you must determine absolutely what their intent is before you ever fire. If they move to take aim at anyone, you can also see the faces and whether they are armed or not. If the move is to shoot one with a terrified face, unarmed or back turned, then take out the threat immediately.

  • Brenda Finnegan says:

    I have been noticing recently the number of shootings that involve intoxication. It appears that the proverbial “good guy with a gun” is only a six pack away from being a bad guy with a gun.

  • patriotz says:

    I won’t anguish too much over your questions if someone breaks into my house and doesn’t immediately obey my orders to leave and takes one step towards me or my loved ones. Read the “Armed Citizen”–a collection of stories from news media of

    all the reported stories (so many more unreported) of people STOPPING murder and carnage because they had a gun.

  • patriotz says:

    Now let’s get totally hypothetical and magically remove every gun from the country, the world, 100%. No bad guys with guns. No good guys. Utopia? No, then every fight becomes a karate fight of hand-to-hand combat. Personally, I like my chances against a gang of people bigger and more depraved than me better if I’m armed even if they aren’t.

  • Jen says:

    The cons on this thread are missing the point. Since when did a random “good guy with a gun” prevent a massacre? And no, the cops don’t count. They shoot to kill often when there is no need to kill, just happened a couple weeks ago in the Oregon desert, they shot one of your fellow conservatives who had his hands up.

    Secondly, you guys miss the larger point, that being in countries with some common sense gun laws, very, very few people die from gun violence and accidental shootings compared to the US. Facts don’t lie.

  • cken says:

    I can only say when faced with a bad guy with a gun, I wished I had had more than a pocket knife. So after having been shot and nearly dying, as soon thereafter as I was able I got a conceal carry permit and bought a gun. Shooting to kill won’t be a question in your mind when somebody is shooting at you, nor will you feel like you violated your moral code. Unfortunately there is no such thing as sensible gun laws that will keep guns out of the hands of bad guys and the mentally ill.

  • Everett Kier Jr says:

    your alternative?

  • brmckay says:

    Hey, it should be obvious. The only defense against “bad people with a nuclear arsenal” is “good people with a nuclear arsenal”.

    And what would happen to the economy without trillions in weapons markets and wars to jack it up?

  • Willie G says:

    Not that impressive of a read.
    The entire article is filled with logical fiction.
    I.E All the “what ifs” try to paint a narrative that all possible situations where a firearm would be an important tool are just too complex and troubling to warrant the risk.
    Kind of like…if you had a 38 revolver and had to confront a bad guy driving in a heavy vintage car… wouldn’t the risk of firing at the heavy car and thus causing a ricochet into a Day Care playground outweigh the need to stop the badguy?

    You could apply this kind of logic to any topic that involves some level of risk…such as driving automobiles that have over 90hp…or owning dogs over 50lbs.

    If you want to question firearm ownership in today’s society a more logical argument might be made by asking the question if social breakdown and lack of unifying morality justify removing the 2nd Amendment.. along with the entire Constitution.

    In other words; could owning guns be wrong, simply because we can’t trust each other due to social breakdown and collective hedonism.

  • chrijeff says:

    “Studies show that the presence of a gun in the home increases the likelihood that someone will get shot.” What studies? When were they made? I’m a historian and a writer of historical fiction, particularly in connection with the Old West. In the 19th Century, most Americans lived on farms or ranches or in small towns (it wasn’t till 1920 that the census found even half of us to be city-dwellers). And most of them had guns–at the very least shotguns or rifles, usually for game and to protect the chicken coop, and sometimes in case of bank robbers or the boy next door being found in the hayloft with one’s daughter. Yet in 50-plus years of study, I have yet to find that large numbers of us died of accidental gunshot inflicted by guns in our homes. (Exception: people going West on wagon trains–who were nervous about Indians, and therefore prone to accident.) Young kids in those days were taught to properly respect a gun, and usually to shoot it properly as soon as they were big enough to keep both ends of it off the ground.

    “What qualifies you to be a good guy with a gun who is ready to end a human life at a moment’s notice?” The fact that under any rational system of law (although I admit ours isn’t, particularly, but there are means of changing it), any person in commission of a felony is bought and paid for. He chooses to commit that felony, and therefore anything that happens to him is entirely his own fault. Now I grant that in a situation where you are (as suggested) in Walmart, you should identify yourself in some way. But in fact a bad guy with a gun is likely to just shoot without doing so. Therefore, the guy who *doesn’t* identify himself is by definition the bad guy. And cops, generally, wear uniforms. When you see them charging onto the scene, you put up your weapon, and they know you’re not one of the people they were called to deal with.
    I agree that if you want to carry a gun, you should be willing to take training in the proper use of it. On the other hand, there are many things Americans own (chain-saws, stoves) which are, or can be, dangerous to themselves and to others. They aren’t required to take training in the use of these things. Isn’t that inconsistency?
    I don’t doubt that our various police agencies do the best they can. But haven’t we all read stories about terrible delays in 911 dispatchery? What if the police are occupied elsewhere when the call comes in? What if the officers responding get stuck in traffic? Are we all going to just fold our hands (or try to find a place to hide) and hope we can survive till they get there?
    There’s an old saying that God helps those who help themselves. That’s what being a good guy with a gun is really about.

  • Rhkennerly says:

    Good piece. I’m not anti-gun, but America has a serious unaddressed #LosersWithGuns problem, which concern solid-citizen gun owners and the anti-gun folks alike. Somewhere there is middle ground and it is profoundly UnAmerican after every other public health problem we have mitigated through science and engineering, to go along with the idea that “there’s nothing to be done.”

    I’ve noticed that if we charted the decline in military service and the rise of fascination with guns and gun culture they’d form a very big X on the chart. And (after a decade as a cop and a military career myself) that the wannabe factor is massive. Everybody seems to want to play Army or play cop but none will actually put themselves on the line & discipline themselves to training and service. Instead, they’re fascinated with the toys and imagine, to use the old Phillip Marlowe line, “that a gat in the hand means the world by the tail.” More interested in “feeling safe” than being safe.

    To most citizens, unknown people of unknown stability carrying guns in public are as alarming as crazies armed with guns to most of us. And not being able to tell the difference infringes on the rights of the unarmed public just as much as cutting off access to guns is to the gun loving.

    It’s unfortunate that guns are at once a sign of freedom to some and the last semblance of manhood for psychotic grudge collectors who blame their failures on every one in society but themselves: women, blacks, Hispanics, “the gov’ment,” bosses, coworkers, white folk, Muslims, religious poeple, anti-religious people. The Oppressor of the day.

    While the number of guns in America are increasing, the number of households with guns has been steadily declining for decades, with just a slight bump up recently. Gun owners need to get serious about doing something to control the #LosersWithGuns problem before the non-gun owning pubic outlaws them completely. After all, Miller was a 5/4 decision and your strongest supporter on the SCOTUS died last week.

  • Tdawg says:

    Its amazing how patriotic americans are about their country, yet you all seem terrified to live there. You are the only country i the world that equates having a gun to safety. If you are serious about the safety of your family, and you are so scared that only a fire will provide that safety, move. Change country because you are living in fear. Being responsible for your family is making the choice that they are more important then your patriotism.

  • bwweinstein says:

    Excellent commentary. As one who has owned guns for 60 years, with a concealed carry permit, I totally endorse the points made in the article. I know personally 5 individuals, or their families, killed with a gun and 4 more injured. I know personally exactly zero times someone has used a gun in self-defense. I wouldn’t go to a theater full of armed “good guys”. And in the context of a college classroom it’s even more likely there will be a tragedy in the course of split-second decision making.

  • Nicole Chojnacki says:

    I found this a very insightful and interesting article. It seems like too many gun owners just leave it at “I’m a good guy with a gun.” How do I know you are? I don’t necessarily know you personally. Frankly, if I saw someone with a gun out in public, I’d be very scared because of all the shooting stories I’ve seen on the news. I can’t just take someone’s say-so as far as my own safety and that of my family goes!

  • SwiperTheFox says:

    It’s fair enough to point out the individuals that have a fantasy of playing Rambo: the loons who eagerly hype themselves up at the notion of mowing down black hat wearing bad guys while wearing their own big white hat. Yet there’s still some significant hand-waving and goalpost-moving going on here in the article. There are plenty of people– not nearly enough out of the percentage of total gun owners but they do clearly exist in big numbers– who do own firearms for protection that don’t plan on charging in brainlessly in active shooter situations. They have actually thought these things out. It’s not that hard to get a grip over.

    The absolute vast majority of defensive gun uses in the first place, by far, involve either merely threatening to shoot (often with folks still having their gun in their holster, not even drawn) or even merely threatening to get the gun in the first place (often with folks having it nearby but not on their person even). That has to be kept in mind. A hypothetical Bob, say, in a shopping mall where he hears gunshots will– if he’s responsible– either stay where he is since he doesn’t know the situation (but being armed he can at least defend himself where he is as well as those around him, should he not be alone) or leave for safety (but being armed he at least has a fighting chance should the active shooter suddenly show up right besides him).

    That’s also not even getting into the fundamental moral question of banning something when it’s known damn well that there are multiple uses besides self-defense. We already know it: collecting, paper target shooting, clay pidegon shooting, big game hunting, etc. In anticipation of follow-up comments, too, yes I get it. The NRA is horrible. Open carry nuts that do things like deliberately walk around with firearms in their hands, pointing them at various people, are sickening. Reasonable gun control is common sense. I still think that it’s important to be totally rational here.

  • Daniel Ruben says:

    I wonder how many mass shootings have been prevented thanks to all the good guys with guns out there. Considering how many still happen, that must be an awful lot – the USA must be one really violent, sad, messed up country given there are still so many shootings in spite of all the good guys with guns.

  • JA Myer says:

    Guns frighten me. I served my country as an infantryman and I know what guns are for they are not a “tool” they are a weapon. And people who think everyone should carry a gun are scarier still. I want to live in a civilized country not in somebody’s fantasy wild west.

  • SamHamilton says:

    It’s really a waste of time to argue against bumper sticker-style slogans. Just like “Keep Your Rosaries Off My Ovaries” or “Forget a job; just vote Democrat” or any other political bumper sticker this gun one is based on emotion and supposed wit rather than logic. Bumper sticker-style slogans aren’t meant to convince someone who disagrees but to signal one’s affiliation with a particular group or cause or to mock those who disagree.

  • Averette Calhoun says:

    Put down the liberal coolaid. If you are in a legal state, put down the doobie. Okay now. First of all, the purpose of the gun is to protect oneself and family, first and foremost. There is a discipline to that. There is responsibility to that. If one chooses to legally carry a gun on one’s person, that does not make you a vigilante protector of all innocents out there. It is to protect yourself and family. Were I in the Walmart movie “isle” aisle, and concealed carrying, I would seek cover. I would not go seek out the shooter and get in a gun battle. Were I confronted by the shooter and my life were in danger, I would use my gun. At home, i don’t have kids running around so my home defense weapon is not sealed away in a safe. Be careful driving, those roads are dangerous and crashes take lives. Drunk drivers take lives. Impaired drivers take lives. Distracted drivers take lives. Criminal with no regard for laws take lives.

  • Bones says:

    I’m sitting in my classroom thanking god I dont live in a country where I have to shield my students from someone armed to the teeth to kill them.

    I’m thankful I dont live in a country which offers meaningless solutions such as empty vacuous prayers when a tragedy happens but acts on it from both sides of politics.

    I’m thankful that most of the Christians in this country support gun control and don’t advocate violence as a solution.

    I’m thankful I don’t live in a country which plays politics with kid’s lives and is more interested in lobby groups and money.

    My thoughts go out to my brothers and sisters who had to endure another senseless slaughter when all they want to do is to help kids.

    May their memory and example not be a waste.

    • Ron McPherson says:

      And here in the U.S. it also ignites the fears of copycat shooters as well as a myriad of mock threats. Kids don’t want to go to school. Wanna know how many on the right want to deal with it? Arm the teachers. Honest to God I’m not joking.

      • Bones says:

        This is just f***ed…….No other word for it……

        How rightwing media is already attacking Florida teens speaking out

        As students rise up to demand gun control the right aims to take them down, along with anyone who offers them support

        After Parkland’s mass shooting, the wind seems to have changed. Students are speaking out, demanding that politicians act. And they’re getting some traction.

        Many found their voice on Twitter and directly attacked Donald Trump’s strange and distracted online response to the massacre. David Hogg, a student journalist who interviewed his classmates as the massacre was happening, has been one of the leaders of a chorus of students calling for tough action on gun control. Emma González made a widely shared, impassioned speech which attacked the president directly, calling out the funding he has received from the National Rifle Association. Today, many of them are making their way in buses to the Florida State House to demand change.

        The survivors are not elementary school students, or public employees, either shielded from media intrusion or disbarred from speaking out. They are confident young adults, many of them media savvy, and more than capable of matching the president when it comes to online snark. Several made it clear that “thoughts and prayers” in the wake of slaughter isn’t welcome.

        So what is a rightwing media apparatus dedicated to the maintenance of unrestricted access to powerful assault weapons to do?

        By and large, the answer has been to attack the students, along with anyone who offers them a platform or any other form of support. The nature of such attack has varied with the self-perceived seriousness of the outlet, but almost the entirety of the right has joined in. Unremitting support for the current interpretation of the second amendment and the advocacy of the NRA is one of the signal issues that unites them.

        The sleaziest and most direct attacks on individual students have come from the right’s more conspiratorial fringe. On Jim Hoft’s pro-Trump, conspiracy-mindedwebsite, Gateway Pundit, Lucian Wintrich performed a hatchet job on David Hogg, suggesting that he was “heavily coached on lines and is merely reciting a script”. Wintrich once told the Guardian that he learned about the perfidy of the left while attending Bard College. In his new piece, he claimed that because Hogg’s father works for the FBI, he may well be part of a broader anti-Trump conspiracy.

        Gateway Pundit has been retweeted by Donald Trump senior and junior in the past, and they were trying their best last year to get White House Press Corps accreditation.

        Conspiracy kingpin Alex Jones, who once told Piers Morgan that “1776 will commence again if you try to take our firearms,” published a similar attack on his Infowars website. His minions trawled through Hogg’s past, unrelated media appearances, saying that they “raised questions”. The piece then quoted one of their bevy of retired military “experts” who had appeared on Infowars, who repeated the FBI conspiracy theory, claiming that the bureau “has been hiring Social Justice Warriors for years”.

        It’s not that Jones doesn’t want to hear from students at all. The site, and Jones show, has highlighted commentary from a witness who claimed that there was a second shooter, and gave a lot of airtime to another who bolstered Jones’s now-reflexive “false flag” take on any given massacre. They just don’t want to hear from any who think that others should be spared the trauma they have endured through some measure of gun control.

        Another approach was to find individual survivors of this massacre who did not happen to support the call from a large number of their classmates for gun control. The Daily Wire managed to find a pro-gun Marjory Stoneman student who accused the media of “politicizing” the massacre to talk about gun control. Glenn Beck’s outfit, The Blaze did their best to extract criticism of the FBI, not Trump, from one student’s CNN interview.

        Others reached back into history to feature the wisdom of survivors of massacres in the more distant past. The Washington Times spoke to Columbine survivor and Colorado Republican Patrick Neville, who wants to remove restrictions on concealed carry in K-12 schools. His thoughts were reliably disseminated by Breitbart and other outlets.

        The Federalist, a would-be purveyor of considered debates, considers itself a cut above such vulgar attacks – instead, under the guise of big tent commentary, they featured writers who have merely tried to undermine the students’ credibility by claiming they have no special status in the debate. On Monday, Chandler Lasch complained on the site that “Media tends to treat survivors like Hogg as if they are policy experts … Yet enduring tragedy does not make anyone a source of wisdom on legislation.”

        Just because your school has been shot up by a disturbed young man with a semi-automatic weapon, the logic seems to run, you don’t deserve a more extensive hearing than a Hillsdale College student, hundreds of miles away.

        Talk radio heavyweight Rush Limbaugh also likes to affect a certain gravitas. He was invited to discuss the massacre, and the students’ activism, on Fox News Sunday. Speaking to Chris Wallace, he defended the status quo, and recommended that more guns be introduced to schools to defend them from mass shooters. He lubricated the message with a few crocodile tears about the students’ pain.

        Conservative movement stalwart the National Review is similarly fastidious – but they’ll reliably put their shoulders to the wheel to prevent measures that might lessen the incidence of large scale, random slaughter. Ben Shapiro spat out a would-be demolition of the students, and the left, arguing that their activism should be dismissed because in adolescence, “the emotional centers of the brain are overdeveloped in comparison with the rational centers of the brain”.

        Dan McLaughlin, who has long blogged and tweeted under the moniker of The Baseball Crank, added that “if you have ever been, or known, a teenager, you know that even comparatively well-informed teens are almost always just advancing arguments they’ve heard from adults”.

        Even, it seems, teens who have recently been shot at by a mass murderer.

        https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/feb/20/how-rightwing-media-is-already-attacking-florida-teens-speaking-out

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