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Staff Reports

To protect the Second Amendment, conservatives are dumping on the Fourth and Fifth

Donald Trump’s confidant suggests flying armed drones over schools to stop school shootings.

By Jane Coaston


In response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, last Wednesday that killed 17 people, some conservatives are suggesting that state governments and the federal government take radical action.

They don’t mean restoring the Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 (which banned guns resembling the Colt AR-15, similar to the gun used in Parkland and one of the most popular rifles in America) or challenging the National Rifle Association’s grip on the conversation about guns and their place in American life.

They mean putting armed drones in schools. Or using Homeland Security technology in schools to create barriers against potential shooters. Or arming retired police and military personnel and putting them in classrooms, or using the same security mechanisms as airports. Or permitting teachers and others to carry concealed weapons in schools.

The horror of what took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is causing a clash of ideals for many on the right, who simultaneously rail against the expansion of the state into the lives of everyday Americans when it comes to say, food stamps or welfare benefits, but who are now voicing support for policies that would bring the “police state” into fifth-grade classrooms.

As a Fox News commentator told Laura Ingraham on The Ingraham Angle on Wednesday, to stop school shootings, “we can harden the target. We can lock down schools. We can have some type of electronic admission. We can have metal detectors. We can make the kids safe so the shooter just can’t walk into the school anytime he pleases.”

“Security theater” on the right

Wayne Allyn Root isn’t just a friend of President Donald Trump and a longtime supporter. He’s a former Libertarian Party vice presidential candidate and author of The Conscience of a Libertarian: Empowering the Citizen Revolution with God, Guns, Gold, and Tax Cuts, which makes, according to Amazon, a “passionate case for smaller government” and details how “Americans can take back their country from big government, big unions, big corporations, corrupt politicians, bureaucrats, lawyers and lobbyists.” His radio show launched in 2009 as a broadside against “big government.”

But Root, a self-described “passionate, committed libertarian,” thinks schools should use armed military drones, presumably to take out school shooters before they can kill anyone else.

But the primary purpose of armed drones is to kill people — whether they are the military drones used at Nellis Air Force Base or the drones that will be used at the US military’s secret $100 million drone base in Niger. Further, the argument that using armed drones in war zones (or domestically, for that matter) rather than sending in troops “saves” American lives (or anyone else’s) is highly debatable.

And that’s in regions of countries engaged in years of war like Syria, Yemen, and Iraq — not in American schools. They’re not hostile zones rife with al-Qaeda operatives or members of ISIS; instead, they’re full of children. To put an armed drone in a school to “protect students” would serve only to terrify them.

Add to that that each armed drone can cost as much as $30,000 per flight hour, and Root’s suggestion starts to look not only dangerous to individual lives and the civil liberties of American students, but remarkably impractical.

Bringing airport security to schools, as Geraldo Rivera proposed to Sean Hannity, is also baffling from a conservative point of view. Conservatives have long decried the Transportation Security Administration’s ineffectiveness and heavy-handed policies. In 2015, TSA missed 95 percent of weapons and explosives brought through security checkpoints during Homeland Security security tests. As Logan Albright wrote for Conservative Review in July 2017:

The TSA is not about keeping us safe, nor is it about apprehending would-be terrorists. The TSA serves one purpose and one purpose only: To create the illusion of safety, the perception that someone is in charge and taking care of things, even if any sensible person can see that it’s all a charade.

Consider also the cost: The annual budget of the TSA, which is chiefly focused on air travel in the United States, is around $7.5 billion. There are just about 15,000 airports in the United States, compared to more than 98,000 public schools alone. The budget, then, for a TSA-style security apparatus for every school in America would be astronomical.

But what about armed guards in every school?

In contrast, the issue with putting armed police or guards in every school isn’t that it’s impractical. It’s that we’re already doing it, and it’s not working. According to the National Association of School Resource Officers, around 40 percent of public schools in America have at least one full-time or part-time school resource officer (SRO) — a law enforcement officer deployed to work in one or more schools.

That included Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and every single high school in its district. Most SROs aren’t trained to work with children — in fact, just 12 states have laws that specify the training requirements for law enforcement officers working in schools. Some of those trainings involve preparing for a mass shooting; some don’t. And the number of confrontations between SROs and students has increased in recent years, with cases of young children handcuffed above the elbow by SROs reaching federal courts.

Even metal detectors intended for use in schools haven’t been shown to have a real impact on student safety. A study performed by the Journal of School Health in 2011 found, “Students in schools with metal detectors were just as likely to report victimization as those in schools without metal detectors.”

One potential (and more sensible) solution

But many conservatives are thinking of ways to stop school shootings before they start that are more logistically workable (and more constitutionally sound). On Friday, David French of National Review suggested the expansion of the use of gun violence restraining orders. With GVROs, a process could be set in place so that if a parent or close relative felt that a person might be a risk to public safety (or their own), they could petition for a hearing to have that person’s access to guns temporarily denied. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has voiced his support.

California already has such legislation in place.

On the left, the best means to end school shootings and mass shootings of any kind would be to massively limit access to guns and the number of guns any American can own, full stop. But the right finds any effort to curb the Second Amendment, by any means, to be anathema. And yet ironically, as Reason magazine’s Robby Soave has pointed out, many conservatives seem all too willing to put the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments at risk instead.

In Dallas, Vice President Pence points to GOP tax revamp as proof that ‘America is back’

Tom Benning, Washington Bureau

Dallas Morning News

Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday touted the GOP’s $1.5 trillion tax revamp as a harbinger of renewed prosperity in Texas, signaling how Republicans plan to lean on the legislation in their efforts to maintain control of Congress.

The Republican, speaking at the Sheraton Dallas, said “it’s been really been remarkable to watch” the response to the sweeping overhaul.

Pence pointed, in particular, to how companies like Dallas-based AT&T and Southwest Airlines have announced $1,000 employee bonuses in recent weeks. In Texas alone, he said, nearly 88,000 workers have received what he called a “Trump bonus.”

And Pence said that was just one of many “promises made and promises kept” by President Donald Trump.

“Growth is back,” he said in a 30-minute speech, which headlined a tax-focused event hosted by America First Policies, a group created to promote Trump’s agenda. “Jobs are coming back. And America is back once again.”

The Dallas speech came as part of a two-day Texas swing in which Pence sought to bolster the GOP on multiple fronts.

He toured the Texas-Mexico border Friday to highlight the need for more border security. He’s raising money in Dallas and San Antonio for GOP election efforts.

And he gave the keynote speech Saturday night at the Dallas County GOP’s Reagan Day dinner at the Omni Hotel in downtown Dallas, thanking the county’s Republicans for their support and touting the party line on the border and immigration.

“We’re going to secure our border,” Pence said at the sold-out dinner. “We’re going to fix this broken immigration system and, make no mistake about it, we’re going to build that wall.”

Pence said Trump’s presidential administration has been a success.

“America is back,” he said.

At the Saturday morning event, there was no mistaking the heavy focus on the tax revamp — and with it, the GOP’s steadfast confidence that the overhaul will win over voters in the November elections.

In Texas, VP Mike Pence will tour border and raise funds for Dallas GOP and embattled congressmen

Though the legislation was unpopular among many Americans when it passed in December — in part because the biggest benefits flow to corporations and the wealthy, according to multiple independent analyses — polls are already starting to show some shifts in opinion.

And Pence predicted that trend would continue as the vast majority of taxpayers in Texas and beyond start to notice beefier paychecks thanks to reduced federal tax withholding.

“Very soon, the impact of what happened nearly two months ago will start to take its full effect on the American economy,” said Pence, who was joined in Dallas by Republicans including Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Vice President Mike Pence listened to Manuel Padilla, U.S. Border Patrol Rio Grande Valley sector chief, while touring the border wall with Sen. Ted Cruz and wife Karen Pence on Friday, Feb. 16, 2018, in Hidalgo, Texas. Pence spent the afternoon touring the U.S.-Mexico border and talking with federal law enforcement officers on their efforts to secure the border.

Nothing about Pence’s trip impressed Texas Democrats, who charged in advance that the Trump administration is in “chaos because every single policy proposal is an insult to Texans.”

“From jeopardizing our relationship with Mexico, to sabotaging our healthcare, and giving away tax cuts to billionaires on our children’s tab, Donald Trump and Mike Pence are literally ruining Texans’ lives and futures,” said Gilberto Hinojosa, chairman of the state party.

Pence: Tax cuts are already working in Texas

And the Democrats made sure to needle Dallas Rep. Pete Sessions, a Republican who could face a tough re-election contest this fall.

“Every single Texas Republican ought to be shaking in their boots,” Hinojosa said. “There’s a blue wave sweeping Texas, and hugging Mike Pence won’t save them.”

But Sessions, who introduced Pence at the Saturday morning event, offered no signs of concern. He said that “there are people in Washington, D.C., that do not want America to be successful because they know that what’s behind that is Donald J. Trump, Mike Pence and Republicans.”

In that way, Pence’s trip amounted mostly to a Texas-themed celebration of Trump’s first year.

He touted Trump’s infrastructure plan. And Pence, raising cash in Dallas for the National Republican Congressional Committee, offered enthusiasm about GOP candidates in Texas and beyond.

But the vice president also took some time to address this week’s school shooting in Florida that left 17 people dead.

Pence offered condolences for the victims. And while he complained that “voices in Washington and in the media are running to their predictable debates,” he said Trump was going to “make the safety of America’s schools our top administration priority.”

“We will get to the bottom of what happened here,” Pence said.

With the tax bill — the reason for the Dallas speech — the vice president could point to the GOP’s signature legislative accomplishment of the Trump era.

Big tax cuts for businesses both big and small. Lower tax rates for individuals. An increased standard deduction. New limits on the estate tax. The preservation of many prized deductions. A boost to the child tax credit. The repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate.

The GOP passed the biggest tax revamp in 30 years. There’s just one problem: Many taxpayers hate it

The immediate result is obvious.

More than 80 percent of Americans are expected to see a tax cut this year, according to multiple analyses. The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy projects that the middle quintile of Texas taxpayers — earning about $40,000 to $63,000 a year — will see an average boost of $760.

“That’s exactly what Texas families need,” Pence wrote in an op-ed timed to the event.

But all of the law’s changes to the individual side of the code, unlike those on the business side, will expire after eight years. So if Congress doesn’t act to extend them, only 25 percent of taxpayers would see a tax cut in 2027, according to the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center.

Evidence also continues to grow that the tax bill won’t pay for itself, despite the GOP’s insistence to the contrary.

Even Trump’s recent budget proposal acknowledged soaring federal deficits in coming years, in part due to less tax revenue entering the Treasury. That dynamic has further stoked Democrats’ complaints that the tax bill is a “scam” that will result in long-term pain.

After tax reform’s PR bonanza, will D-FW companies get back to business as usual?

Pence and other Republicans, however, countered that such views are shortsighted.

They said the rush of corporate bonuses is a sign of more to come, though other evidence suggests that companies will use most of their savings for stock buybacks and other things. And they predicted that the biggest benefit would come from long-term economic growth.

“We’re just getting started,” Pence said.

Political writer Gromer Jeffers Jr. contributed to this report.

Melania Trump’s Tweet About ‘Random Acts Of Kindness Day’ Didn’t Go Over Well

By Lee Moran

Trends Editor, HuffPost

Melania Trump promoted Random Acts Of Kindness Day on Twitter on Saturday, but it didn’t spark the reaction she was likely hoping for.

The first lady encouraged her 9.8 million followers to embrace the annual Feb. 17 celebration of compassion by testing “the power of kindness.”

“It’s an opportunity to teach our children the importance of taking care of one another,” she wrote.

Some people reacted positively, but the majority of respondents hit back by suggesting she give the same message to her husband, President Donald Trump. Among the replies: “Don’t tell us, tell Donald, who would rather insult people than help.”


Staff Reports