The XX Factor

NRA Commentator: Kids Should Be Required to Learn How to Shoot a Gun in School  

Media Matters snagged a rather startling example of what passes for thought-provoking commentary at NRA News, which is a news and commentary site for the National Rifle Association. The video is called “Everyone Gets A Gun” and features regular NRA commentator Billy Johnson musing about an ideal world in which the government would promote gun ownership. (The NRA includes a disclaimer indicating that Johnson’s commentary “does not necessarily” reflect the larger organization’s.)

“But what would happen if we designed gun policy from the assumption that people need guns—that guns make people’s lives better. Let’s consider that for a minute,” he says. “Gun policy driven by people’s need for guns would seek to encourage people to keep and bear arms at all times.” Johnson even suggests that it would be cool to have “gun-required zones” instead of “gun-free zones.” That’s deep, man.

Johnson stops short of suggesting that the government should subsidize AK-47 ownership for men who don’t currently have enough money to properly terrorize suburban moms at the local Chipotle, but he does recommend public schools as an excellent place to find a captive audience for this everyone-gets-a-gun mentality:

Gun policy driven by our need for guns would insist that we introduce young people to guns early and that we’d give them the skills to use firearms safely. Just like we teach them reading and writing, necessary skills. We would teach shooting and firearm competency. It wouldn’t matter if a child’s parents weren’t good at it. We’d find them a mentor. It wouldn’t matter if they didn’t want to learn. We would make it necessary to advance to the next grade.

This entire video should serve as a reminder that while the NRA holds itself out as a “rights” organization, it has ties to the gun industry, which is more interested in making money than anything else. In a major investigation in 2013, the New York Times found that “the firearms industry has poured millions of dollars into a broad campaign to ensure its future by getting guns into the hands of more, and younger, children.” Young people are much less interested in buying guns than the older generations, a trend that will seriously impact gun industry profits if it continues. Getting public schools to persuade children about the wonders of gun ownership sure sounds like a tantalizing way to improve gun sales. 

Of course, Johnson isn’t dumb enough to think that we’re ever going to have mandatory gun training in schools. The whole proposal is clearly being offered as a thought experiment. Still, his provocation sends two very disturbing messages: Guns are a human necessity, and learning how to shoot a gun is as important as learning how to read. We already have 289 people getting shot every day in the United States. Imagine how much higher that number would be if we lived Billy Johnson’s dream.