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Texas mass shooting cynically exploited to advance war on public schooling

A person lights a candle outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas
Associated Press/Jae C. Hong
A law enforcement personnel lights a candle outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on May 25, 2022.

The rolling crisis that is America’s gun violence epidemic reached into yet another set of lives on Tuesday, this time in the small town of Uvalde, Texas. There, an 18-year-old gunman used his recently-purchased AR-15 to embark on a rampage that left 19 children and two teachers dead and the shooter’s grandmother seriously wounded. 

Republicans from Texas Sen. Ted Cruz to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene quickly dismissed the idea of even talking about gun control legislation, while criticizing Democrats for, in their mind, politicizing a senseless tragedy. But one conservative writer exploited the Uvalde shooting as an opportunity to attack one of the GOP’s favorite targets: public schooling.

“Tragedies Like the Texas Shooting Make a Somber Case for Homeschooling,” reads the headline of a piece by Jordan Boyd, a writer for The Federalist. The argument is staggering in its cynicism and defeatism: an easy-to-access stream of high-powered weaponry poses a constant threat to children in schools across America. But the answer isn’t to pass legislation that improves gun safety. Boyd is proposing we shut down our schools instead. 

But Boyd doesn’t want to get rid of public schools out of a desire, held by many conservatives, to end all forms of public education from the Department of Education on down. No, she’s just thinking of the children.

“Schools should be a safe place for children to learn, but saying ‘guns have no place here’ only stops good people with kids’ best interests in mind from being able to protect them,” Boyd writes. “At home, parents don’t have to worry about jumping through bureaucratic hoops to shield their kids from a bullet, the trauma of seeing their classmates slaughtered, or even terrifying shooting drills.”

Boyd’s reasoning is all wrong. When the pandemic largely shut down schools across America, our country was in the unique situation of educating most children from home. That created a treasure-trove of data. As NPR reports, accidental gunshot deaths by children handling guns at home jumped a staggering 31 percent after most schools closed. 

In fact, more children died from gun violence when schools were closed than died when schools were open. Ninety-eight children died from unintentional shootings between March and December 2019. But over that same period during remote learning, 128 died from accidentally shooting themselves.

Boyd doesn’t address how reverting to homeschooling would be practical for single parents or low-income families in which both parents work full-time jobs. And since Republicans refused to extend the Child Tax Credit that slashed child poverty, fewer families than ever can leave work to educate their children personally.

Republicans don’t seem to be interested in having an honest conversation about how to support low-income families, some of whom may be interested in homeschooling their kids. They’re just desperate to distract from the direct connection between America’s ocean of guns and the now routine sight of gun-enabled mass murder in our schools and communities.

Nearly half of American families report having a gun in the home. The Uvalde shooter purchased his two AR-15 style rifles legally, following a string of successful efforts by Texas Republicans, including Gov. Greg Abbott, to strip away nearly every restriction on purchasing a gun. Whether at home or in school, our children are surrounded by a culture that has prioritized the freedom to own guns over the rights of children to remain alive. 

Boyd gives away the game in the article’s last paragraph, bluntly reminding the reader that the real purpose of her article is to push “educational choice” — a phrase Americans have heard a lot from Republicans recently. That euphemism sanitizes the GOP’s years-long effort to weaken, defund and ultimately destroy public education at every level.

Democrats must realize that not only is now the time to get political, but that the fight to protect ourselves from gun violence has always been political. While some conservative Democrats bristle at pushing back against the GOP’s cynical exploitation of gun culture, Republicans are already bringing the wrecking ball to dismantle America’s public education.

Max Burns is a Democratic strategist and founder of Third Degree Strategies, a progressive communications firm. Follow him on Twitter @themaxburns.

Tags Gun control Homeschooling Marjorie Taylor Greene School choice Ted Cruz Uvalde Uvalde school shooting Uvalde shooting

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