The Dallas Morning News

“When we declare our schools to be gun-free zones, it just puts our students in far greater danger.”

The president of the United States is well-known to have freewheeling style, but many of his comments inflame rather than inform debates. The comment above came this week and seemed aimed at uprooting a cornerstone of school-safety policy on the fly, and it came after the president added another fiery idea to the gun debate in the wake of the Parkland, Fla., massacre of 17 students. Earlier this week, he called for arming teachers as a way to stop school shootings so that they — the teachers — could “immediately fire back if a savage sicko came to a school with bad intentions.”

The response? Something akin to half the country concluded there is not a political deal to be cut on this issue with the president.

There are numerous policy ideas that have a chance to address the pressing national need to stop mass shootings from killing more Americans. But very few of them have a chance to reach the floor for debate when the man with the loudest voice keeps shouting out ideas that drive both sides apart. Americans — on both sides — are more passionate about guns than about nearly any other political issue, and that is saying something in this age of divisive politics.

The gun debate is riven with emotions that are rightly tied to events involving the slaughter of innocent Americans. And the issue will only be addressed by policies that both elicit wide support and offer creative solutions to complex problems. We’ll never get there if a key figure in that debate continues to drop rhetorical bombs.

Schools need a better response plan

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The question of allowing trained personnel to have access to firearms in schools should not be the outrageous non-starter that anti-gun activists assert. It’s an issue at least worth debating among reasonable measures to halt the senseless mass death inflicted by shooters armed with assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

The gun debate for too long has been stalled by intransigence. The moment one side offers an incremental solution, the other side quickly dismisses it as unworkable. The result is that no changes are made, the mass killings continue, and the gun lobby emerges victorious. One issue that won’t go away is what to do in those crucial few minutes when an active shooter is on the loose in a school but police have yet to arrive.

So far, those favoring sharp curtailment of gun rights have instantly rejected the idea of arming school personnel, yet they have offered no viable response plan when an active shooter is slaughtering kids. President Donald Trump fumbled and bumbled his way through an effort to articulate why guns in schools might work in response to the Feb. 14 high school massacre in Parkland, Fla.

Speaking at a White House forum last week that included parents and colleagues of Parkland’s victims, Trump called for arming up to 20 percent of teachers, citing the “deterrent value.”

There is no deterrent value to putting guns in schools. Suicidal maniacs with assault rifles and high-capacity magazines have a death wish. Nikolas Cruz, the gunman in the Parkland shooting, is an outlier as a survivor. Most shooters will take their own lives if police don’t do it for them.

Even if a ban on assault rifles occurred tomorrow, 5 million to 10 million AR-15 type assault rifles would still be in circulation, the National Shooting Sports Foundation estimates. It’s not a question of if but when another school mass shooting will occur.

What’s the plan for that? The worst idea is to flood schools with licensed, gun-toting teachers and administrators, as Trump proposes.

A program enacted in Texas in 2013 allows schools to apply for a highly restrictive program in which a volunteer staffer undergoes extensive police training as a school marshal. The staffer must pass a thorough background check and complete 80 hours of training. An estimated 172 of Texas’ 1,023 school districts participate.

Similar to an air marshal on a commercial airliner, the school marshal’s identity is secret, known only by the top administrator and police. The weapon must stay hidden, locked and secured but within quick access.

This is not the gun-crazy idea that critics suggest, nor is it a golden solution to mass shootings. It’s a reasonable, incremental plan to minimize casualties in those crucial minutes before the police arrive.

The fire-stoking rhetoric is getting us nowhere. Let’s give serious thought to serious solutions.

Actually, trade wars are bad and impossible to win

Bloomberg View

It’s always dangerous to say that Donald Trump has set a new low for presidential discourse, because he sets new lows with dreary regularity. Nonetheless, his heedless declaration that “trade wars are good, and easy to win” deserves special recognition.

No president should need to be told that trade wars are, in fact, bad and impossible to win. By imposing new tariffs on steel and aluminum, Trump has embarked on a policy that is a clear and present danger to U.S. jobs and living standards.

The tariffs are indefensible on their face. They’ll raise prices for U.S. consumers and put U.S. companies at a serious disadvantage in export markets. There’s no need to go over this ground again: None of the rationales that have been offered in their defense makes sense.

Yet boasting about how easy it is to win a trade war tops almost everything. It adds an element of historical and strategic obliviousness to the administration’s economic incompetence.

America’s allies and trading partners — including Japan, Canada, Australia, and the European Union — are dismayed. If they aren’t exempted, they’ll feel compelled to retaliate against the U.S. action, just as the U.S. would retaliate against a unilateral rule-bending act of outright protection against its own producers. The administration will then feel pressure to retaliate against the retaliation. After all, it now has to show that trade wars are “easy to win.” A self-defeating spiral of this kind is actually the definition of “trade war.”

One of the biggest risks of the Trump presidency has always been the harm it might do to the U.S. and global economies through a reckless approach to trade. Norms and institutions have been built over decades to support international cooperation through commerce. The U.S., far from being disadvantaged by this system of liberal trade, has profited enormously. The new tariffs, and the preposterous comments offered in their defense, suggest that Trump wasn’t bluffing: He really does want to tear this system down.

The last time this happened was during the 1930s. The Smoot-Hawley tariffs and the retaliation they provoked contributed to the Great Depression and the collapse of the world economy. Mr. President, what exactly was good about that trade war?

Dick’s issues a call to arms

The Hartford Courant

Dick’s Sporting Goods has not only stopped selling assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. By calling for a ban on assault-style firearms and more, this national retailer has become a national leader.

Now, will politicians hear the call?

If a company that sells guns can understand that assault weapons don’t belong in civilian hands, that people under 21 should not be able to buy guns, and that high-capacity magazines should be banned — and that these simple steps can be taken without violating anyone’s Second Amendment rights — then shouldn’t politicians be able to understand that as well?

This nation used to have an assault weapons ban. Connecticut’s ban has passed constitutional muster. Even former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, in the oft-cited Heller decision, recognized that the Constitution allows the government to limit access to certain kinds of weapons. Not anyone can buy a rocket launcher.

The task before Congress now is to recognize that banning assault weapons is not just within its rights but among its responsibilities. In the absence of congressional action, Dick’s accepted this responsibility. It sets an example for other gun retailers.

Dick’s is not the only company to make a public stand against gun violence since the shooting at a Parkland, Fla., high school that took the lives of 17 students and staff on Feb. 14. A number of companies, including airlines and car rental companies, have publicly cut ties with the National Rifle Association and stopped offering discounts to NRA members.

It’s as if everyone is waking up, except for the politicians who are afraid to stand up to the bullying tactics of the NRA.

Dick’s initially stopped selling AR-15-style weapons in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, but then resumed at its Field & Stream stores. Those stores — numbering only 35, none in Connecticut — will no longer sell assault-style rifles, according to Dick’s. It’s a mostly symbolic step, but the message is clear.

Dicks also called for expanding background checks and closing loopholes that allow gun sales outside the system.

To repeat: A major national seller of guns will no longer take part in irresponsible gun sales and wants the rest of the nation to join in.

This is what progress looks like.

Thank you, Dick’s Sporting Goods, for doing what’s right.

The real test is when the media attention goes away

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Starting a movement, motivated by energy, anger and youth, isn’t that difficult. Keeping it going when momentum flags is harder. The young people from Parkland, Fla., and their supporters fighting for reasonable gun control must commit themselves for the long haul, understanding that it’s not going to be a battle lightly fought or easily won.

The student activists got a taste of that quickly when a smear campaign took root just as their movement was gaining national visibility. A YouTube user identifying himself as Mike M. cobbled together an old video news segment of movement leader David Hogg being interviewed on another matter and accused him of being a “crisis actor.”

Social media chatter questioning who’s behind the student movement continues to gain traction. The theme is that liberal forces are working behind the scenes to carry out their mission of repealing the Second Amendment. All this comes in the context of a well-documented Russian effort to divide Americans exactly by using such social media tactics.

Four days after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting rampage, some survivors banded together to name their movement Never Again. Their goal is to win approval for some common-sense gun regulations, including stricter background checks for gun owners. They called a nationwide protest for March 24.

This is nothing more than a group of students motivated by having watched friends and acquaintances get slaughtered by another teen wielding an assault rifle he never should have been allowed to possess. They are nobody’s puppets.

To their credit, the young activists seem undaunted by the social media attacks. Cameron Kasky, 17, laughed at the suggestion that he might be a crisis actor. “You should have seen me in ‘Fiddler on the Roof,’ “ Kasky said. “Who the hell would pay me to act?”

The Parkland students are part of what has been tagged the “mass shooting generation.” They were born around the time of the 1999 Columbine High School attack in Colorado, in which 12 students and one teacher were killed, and have listened to the reverberations of mass shootings throughout their young lives.

They have reason to become activists and are not easily intimidated, even when the National Rifle Association bears down on them with its massive political machinery.

But they must know that the road ahead is arduous. The limelight will not always shine on them and their cause, no matter how righteous. They saw that last week when Republican legislators in Florida rejected their call for an assault-weapons ban.

When the media attention dies down and the nation’s attention wanes, that’s when their real dedication to the cause will show. It’s about garnering votes. It’s hard work, involving fundraising and door-to-door campaigning. That’s when real leadership and commitment is tested.