George Boardman: Here’s the takeaway for students after the Florida high school massacre
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The reaction of adults after the mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., has become a real teachable moment for the students who survived the tragedy.
All that stuff the students learned in their government classes about how elected officials represent the interests of their constituents? Well, many of them watched in dismay as the Florida legislature decided to ignore the issue of assault rifles and take up a debate on pornography instead.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio participated in a constituent town hall meeting accompanied by a handler from the National Rifle Association. It is well known that the gun lobby has bought the Republican Party, but it never hurts to have somebody present who can keep you on message.
Then there was the president of the United States, who held a “listening” session in the White House for people directly impacted by mass shootings. Of course, he arrived at the listening session with five talking points, including a reminder that “I hear you.”
You had to be impressed with how articulate and passionate many of the students were in expressing their concerns and fears, although some of them were apparently too good. An Internet campaign initiated by right wing trolls claimed that at least one of the students was a paid actor. This libel was enhanced by YouTube, which apparently has an algorithm that encourages and amplifies any paranoid thoughts you might have.
Then there was the Parkland survivor who claimed CNN tried to script his participation in one of its town-hall programs when it become known he is an advocate for armed school guards. CNN claims the kid wanted to make a speech and they told him he could only ask a question.
That led up to a speech by the NRA’s puppet master, Wayne LaPierre, who blamed “elitists” for the anti-gun movement (LaPierre made an elitist $5 million last year) and warned of a “tidal wave of new European socialists” to be found on the Democratic side of the aisle in Congress who threaten our Second Amendment rights. Culture war? Bring it on.
(I should point out here that our local blogosphere echoed LaPierre’s concern for the erosion of gun rights, discussing such topics as “par force” — the down home version of mutual assured destruction — and how it kept Cliven Bundy, the dead-beat Nevada cattle rancher, out of the clutches of the federal government.)
Most of the media took up the chant for more gun control, and Hollywood celebrities like George Clooney, Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg rallied to the cause of the students, each donating $500,000 to bankroll a student march on Washington, D.C., March 24. (You never saw that kind of money backing protests of the Vietnam War.)
Students and/or their parents, not expecting much to be done before the next mass shooting takes place, are increasing their purchase of protective items like bulletproof backpacks. This is a practical start in the right direction, but it is just a start.
Such backpacks are useful if a shooter opens fire from the rear, and depending on the circumstances, a student might have time to swivel the backpack to the front, offering some protection of the face and upper body area.
More accessories will be needed to provide real protection, particularly if President Trump’s plan to arm teachers becomes a reality. Students could find themselves in a crossfire between two people who aren’t very good shots.
One obvious addition is a Kevlar helmet, good protection against anybody who wants to shoot you in the head. Instead of putting up with those drab camo colors, they can be painted in school colors to double as cheering accessories during pep rallies.
Protective accessories have to include a protective vest because the torso is the easiest body part to hit. Modern technology means nobody needs to know you wear one. Take, for example, the Coolmax IIIA from Safeguard Clothing.
“Due to its soft poly-cotton outer shell,” the manufacturer informs us, “this vest remains almost invisible beneath other clothing, making it an ideal piece of equipment for covert operations.” Because of its ability to release heat and keep out the cold, the wearer can be comfortable in almost any situation, such as hiding under a desk.
“This vest is engineered to protect against ballistics of varying levels and uses cutting edge technology to ensure this level of safety,” the manufacturer states. The vest can stop a 9 mm slug or one from a .44 Magnum, sufficient protection against the two type of ammo used in the AR-15, the assault weapon of choice for America’s mass shooters. The vest is priced at $270, but you can probably get it cheaper from Amazon.
Students can further accessorize their outfit with knee and shin guards, as well as devices to cover the top of their shoes. I would advise against a shield: They’re bulky, won’t fit in a school locker, and probably won’t be allowed in classrooms.
Some people may think this is going overboard, but I’m not so sure.
If there’s one lesson students should take away from the Parkland massacre, it’s that they can’t depend on the adults to solve the problem they created.
George Boardman lives at Lake of the Pines. His column is published Mondays by The Union. Write to him at email@example.com.
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