Dahlia Lithwick recently wrote a column for Slate—“Lockdown Nation,” she calls it. You know where she’s going with this already. She lists 16 lockdowns that occurred over the second week of December across the country, and the list is bracing—she acknowledges that it comprises “just a fraction of them.”
She’s right. Every day, it seems, the news runs video of a terrified teenager whose school has been locked down. The national news normally covers only those incidents that involve an active shooter on a populated campus. But Lithwick’s piece reminds us that these lockdowns—and the fear, paranoia, and loathing that come with them—occur for other reasons as well: an off-campus domestic dispute, a nearby bank robbery, threats written on a bathroom wall, a BB gun on campus, or a nearby car crash. The militarization of our culture is proceeding apace.
Within such a culture, the motivation behind these lockdowns are understandable, even laudable. Sandy Hook Elementary School, of course, marked a turning-point in our national gun discussion, and the mantra, “Better Safe than Sorry,” is now the mantra of every school administrator in this country. Were I the principal of such a school and was told that someone, somewhere even near my school was suspiciously brandishing a gun, I’d lock it down, tight as a drum. I understand why this is happening.
So I don’t want to vilify these folks who call for these lockdowns—and neither does Lithwick. As I said, better safe than sorry. For now.
But Lithwick reminds us that we haven’t had a national discussion on the fundamental protocols involving these lockdowns: when they are justified, how they are to be executed, and how we might counsel our students after these lockdowns are lifted. Lithwich's right: we need to begin long-term studies to understand the psychological legacy that a lockdown culture bequeathes our children.
So let’s start that conversation, not only because it will benefit our children, and their children for generations to come, but also because it will begin to dismantle the culture of fear and paranoia that the NRA and other gun lobbies have fostered in this country to bolster gun sales and lengthen political careers.
And when this fear begins to vanish—and it does so by insisting on the facts about gun-safety, and its happy sidekick, public safety—we see the gun lobbies, and those who support them, for who they are—bullies. As Eddie Vedder said back in October in Hartford about these lobbies: “they’re louder, and they’re very tenacious, and if you speak up against them, they will jump on you, and tear you apart, and make it so nobody else wants to say something. . . .” [Note: this concert occurred a few weeks after Vedder made some public remarks on the lunacy of the radical gun-activists. He was attacked in ways that seem to have shaped some of these remarks. See my reaction to that original face-off here.]
In short, Wayne LaPierre, and many of the radical gun advocates he represents, are bullies. And if we can orchestrate a national conversation about the bullying culture in our schoolyards—which we are doing—then we can begin to dismantle the bullying that comes now from the radical gun groups in this country.
If we take a serious and responsible look at our lockdown procedures in this country, we can begin to address this fear, and by addressing this fear, we respond productively to the gun-bullying that we have seen coming from the gun industry's most aggressive spokespersons and lobbies.