Publications have editors. Real ones. As in, those whose experience is commensurate with the paper, magazine or website they’re working for. They’re not just there to make sure their staff don’t “wreite like” th1s. Their function is edit for style, to check facts, to see if arguments cohere. For this, they’re paid handsomely. (Well, by the standards of the industry, anyhow.)
I mention this all because on Friday, the U.S. edition of The Guardian allowed the staff of the Eagle Eye — the official newspaper of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, site of one of the most horrific acts of evil we’ve witnessed on school grounds in many a year — essentially to write and edit their own piece detailing their recommendations to “halt mass shootings.”
It’s worth noting that the paper’s parent publication, the London Guardian, is easily the most liberal mainstream publication in Great Britain. That certainly explains why they would engage in an experiment like this.
And, common sense unfortunately dictated exactly how the experiment went. The piece — which I’m sure did very well in terms of readership, given the quasi-celebrity nature of the authors and the fact that it was published a day before the March for Our Lives — is a farrago of unresearched errors, logical fallacies and appeals to emotion so threadbare and maudlin you wish that a real editor would have saved them from themselves.
Here are a few “highlights” from the piece, titled “Our manifesto to fix America’s gun laws.”
“We have a unique platform not only as student journalists, but also as survivors of a mass shooting. We are firsthand witnesses to the kind of devastation that gross incompetence and political inaction can produce.”
This is in the introduction and it sets the tone for what’s to come. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: neither surviving a mass shooting nor being a student journalist makes you an expert on either firearms or public policy.
In the latter department, it shows in this very sentence: the movement they are supporting (and the manifesto they wrote) wishes to place more — not less — power in the hands of those whose gross incompetence and political inaction caused the Parkland shooting in the first place.
“Ban semi-automatic weapons that fire high-velocity rounds: Civilians shouldn’t have access to the same weapons that soldiers do. That’s a gross misuse of the second amendment. (sic) These weapons were designed for dealing death: not to animals or targets, but to other human beings. The fact that they can be bought by the public does not promote domestic tranquility. Rather, their availability puts us into the kind of danger faced by men and women trapped in war zones.
“This situation reflects a failure of our government. It must be corrected to ensure the safety of those guaranteed the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
This is the kind of misinformation from which an actual editor — one who works for The Guardian as opposed to the Eagle Eye — would have saved these individuals. Hunting rounds available to the general public already fire at higher velocity than some ammunition used in military rifles, because hunters often shoot at moving targets.
So, in fact, they were mostly designed for “dealing death” to animals. They’re often for varmint control. However, in a mass shooting situation, they would actually have little practical advantage over most other guns (but more about this later).
While there may be the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the Declaration of Independence, there is also the right to bear arms (which “shall not be infringed upon”) in the Constitution. Nowhere in these documents, it must be noted, is the promotion of “domestic tranquility” (again: this kind of clubfooted phraseology is why you let professionals edit your work) guaranteed.
The most sadly laughable line, however, is the part about “a failure of our government.” The government has failed in so many ways in Parkland, but in ways where handing more power over to them would only exacerbate the problem. I know these students write and edit a newspaper; perhaps they should read a few, as well.
“Ban accessories that simulate automatic weapons: High-capacity magazines played a huge role in the shooting at our school. In only 10 minutes, 17 people were killed, and 17 others were injured. This is unacceptable.
“That’s why we believe that bump stocks, high-capacity magazines and similar accessories that simulate the effect of military-grade automatic weapons should be banned.
“In the 2017 shooting in Las Vegas, 58 people were killed and 851 others were injured. The gunman’s use of bump stocks enabled vast numbers of people to be hurt while gathered in one of the most iconic cities in America. If it can happen there, it can happen anywhere. That’s why action must be taken to take these accessories off the market.”
Let’s start here with the idea that bump stocks “simulate automatic weapons.” They allow weapons to fire more rapidly — and very inaccurately. In the case of Las Vegas, it was a unique situation where accuracy didn’t matter to the gunman because of the press of the crowd into which he was firing. In most mass shootings, bump stocks would be useless. They also do not “simulate the effect of military-grade automatic weapons.”
As for the high-capacity magazines, this is again something that anyone familiar with guns would know to be useless. In a soft-target situation like a school where security either cannot or refuses to engage a shooter, a handgun with a regular magazine would be more than enough to inflict the kind of damage the shooter did, irrespective of the size of the magazine. And, if targets were hardened, the size of the magazine wouldn’t matter; a student would likely be either stopped or deterred before it made a significant difference.
Nowhere is evidence provided for any of their claims in this department, likely because none exists.
Oh, and speaking of security:
“Increase funding for school security: We believe that schools should be given sufficient funds for school security and resource officers to protect and secure the entire campus. As a school of over 3,000 students, teachers and faculty, Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school (sic) was only supplied funds to hire one on-campus armed resource officer by the state.
“Without backup, this officer’s hesitation proved to be disastrous and allowed for the senseless deaths of people who were killed on the third floor of the 1200 building. Though this idea has been proposed in the past, these funds should not be appropriated from the already scarce funding for public education. Governments should find resources to secure the millions of children that attend public schools without taking away from the quality of education that is offered at these institutions.”
Given the scarce resources, you mean a plan like, I don’t know, training and arming already-extant faculty members at your institution to back up armed resource officers? Like the president proposed? Probably not, given that one of the soi disant leaders of Stoneman Douglas gun control posse (who, in fairness, is not an editorial member of the Eagle Eye) has called that idea “stupid.”
“Allow the CDC to make recommendations for gun reform: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should be allowed to conduct research on the dangers of gun violence. The fact that they are currently prohibited from doing so undermines the first amendment.(sic) It also violates the rights of the American people.
“It is hypocritical to rally people to protect the second amendment, (sic) while remaining silent on the ways that blocking research violates one of our most basic constitutional freedoms.”
At least someone from The Guardian should have had the basic kindness to explain how incoherent this would sound. The Centers for Disease Control is a government organization. If it is commissioned by the government to provide gun death research — and the omnibus bill authorizes that — it can conduct said research. It would then present its findings.
Nowhere is a taxpayer-funded organization granted the right to officially opine on any issue without legislation or regulations that prompt it, under the First Amendment. This would be patently absurd — and, by the way, since the CDC is currently headed up by an appointee of the Trump administration, I seriously doubt the editorial members of the Eagle Eye would exactly be in favor of the CDC somehow utilizing the First Amendment to remark on how they feel about the Second Amendment.
Other arguments that you may have heard before that are included in the piece are the proposal to raise the minimum age for firearm purchases from 18 to 21, greater sharing of mental health information between mental health care providers and law enforcement, the “gun show loophole” argument and calls for more stringent background checks.
No particularly new points were contributed to the discussion and none of the arguments were rendered more astutely than they have heretofore been. There is no unique perspective brought to anything (aside from the idea that government agencies ought to have autonomous First Amendment rights to speak however they want), and certainly no particular view expressed in the article is unique to an individual who has survived a mass shooting.
Instead, it is an exploitative document (on the part of The Guardian) riddled with poor reasoning and nonexistent research (on the part of the students) which only exists in mass media circulation because of who wrote it.
You may feel that I am being inordinately cruel and unjust by attacking what these students have written. They are, after all, survivors of an unspeakable tragedy. They are also public figures and have made themselves so by their decision to lecture Americans on what constitutional and legal rights they should and should not have. The expectation that those they have chosen to lecture ought to sit down and stay silent ignore the fact that the media is using these teenagers as cultural satraps to weave a proxy narrative of their own.
If the media is going to engage in such puppetry, the very least they could do is give these kids a decent editor.