As majority whip, Steve Scalise ranks third in the congressional hierarchy, and President Donald Trump called him the “legend from Louisiana” during the State of the Union speech.
Now that Scalise had made it to the top, he cannot afford to slip up if he wants to keep in tight with Trump. Fear not. There is no danger that he will suddenly start talking sense, especially on the big issue of the moment, guns.
There might be room for disagreement on the wisdom of arming teachers. Any idea advanced by the NRA and endorsed by Trump will almost certainly be insane, but right now this is all in the realm of opinion.
Since Scalise almost died last year after being shot at baseball practice in Washington, he has more skin in the game than most. When he agrees that guns in the classroom make sense, he must be in earnest, although that doesn't make it any less likely that he is making a deadly mistake.
Regardless of who is likely to be right on that issue, Scalise is out of line when he distorts the facts in his overall resistance to limits on the right to bear arms. “There's no magic bill that's going to stop the next thing from happening,” Scalise says, “when so many laws are already on the books that weren't being enforced, that were broken.”
This is a favorite GOP fantasy, but it is perfectly obvious that it is not lax enforcement that enables the nutters to mow their victims down. You can't fail to enforce laws that were never enacted.
Scalise received his grievous wounds when James Hodgkinson opened fire on the baseball field with a gun that he had a perfect legal right to own. And so it is with the vast majority of mass shootings. Even Nikolas Cruz was using a legally acquired weapon AR-15 when he murdered those 17 Parkland High School students and teachers.
The FBI and the local sheriff's department ignored tips about Cruz's unstable personality that should have made them intervene, however, which enabled Scalise to claim: “The breakdowns that happen; this is what drives people nuts.”
He is also clearly right to rule out a magic bill, but only because the folly of the ages cannot be corrected overnight. It is absurd to suggest there is a forgotten law somewhere that could eliminate or least reduce the carnage
Nothing can put a brake on the trade, say, in AR-15 rifles — semi-automatic but easy enough to bump-stock into a machine gun — so long as purchasers pass a background check. Passing such checks was no problem for Hodgkinson, Cruz or Stephen Paddock, who killed 58 and wounded hundreds more in Las Vegas last year to become the bloodiest assassin of them all.
A high-powered semi-automatic does not sound like a gentleman's choice of hunting weapon, while the AR-15 may be rather more of a gun than is strictly necessary if the need ever should arise to defend hearth and home. It fires at sufficient velocity to shatter bones and inner organs, apparently leaves an exit wound the size of an orange, and has become an automatic choice for mass shooters. But it is also hugely popular among law-abiding and perfectly sane citizens who have been convinced that the Second Amendment is essential to preserve all their other constitutional rights, and the NRA will obviously resist any attempt to restrict access.
Scalise comes out in full support of the theory that teachers who are properly trained and wish to carry guns would provide the most effective counter to the murderous intruder. It is, of course, easy enough for anyone who's been to the movies to imagine a brave teacher emerging from class to save his students with a cool shot between the eyes for an unhinged loner with an AR-15 in the hallway.
But, in the real world, there is no way of knowing how people will react in a crisis, and the risks posed when armed teachers panic is obvious. Training can only achieve so much, as we saw at Parkland when one armed deputy, and possibly more, lingered outside the school while Cruz went on his murderous way.
Trump, who recovered miraculously from the bone spurs that saved him from the Vietnam draft, says that, even if unarmed, he would have rushed in to tackle Cruz. No reason for Scalise to be the only legend around here.
Email James Gill at Gill1407@bellsouth.net.