No gun fantasies

California schools have a long list of pressing needs, but one thing they don’t need is more guns. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what they’ll get if Republican Assemblyman Tim Donnelly has his way.

Recently, amid the national soul-searching that followed the tragic school shooting at Newtown, Conn., Donnelly introduced the School Marshal Plan (Assembly Bill 202). Echoing National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre’s call for armed guards to be placed in schools across the country, Donnelly’s bill would authorize districts to spend general-purpose funds to train “school marshals”—teachers and administrators who would secretly carry concealed weapons on school grounds as a means of deterring the next would-be school shooter with an assault rifle.

It’s no surprise Donnelly would think this way. The assemblyman first gained celebrity in 2005 as leader of the Minuteman Corps of California, a group that organized armed-citizen patrols of the Mexican border, and last year, he made national news when a loaded handgun was discovered in his carry-on bag at the LA/Ontario International Airport. (Donnelly had forgotten it was there, he explained.) Besides, he’s announced his interest in running for governor, and sponsoring this bill will go a long way to reinforcing his pro-gun credentials with Republican Party activists and the NRA, whose support could make him a player in 2014.

But A.B. 202 is a terrible idea that would only bring more gun violence into our schools. Numerous studies have shown that having a gun in the home not only does not make that home safer, but also greatly increases the chances that a household member will die in a gun-related accident, homicide or suicide. That’s because guns get misplaced (as Donnelly well knows) and children find and use them. Guns wind up in the middle of arguments and turn shouting matches into murders. They enable suicides by people who, without ready access to a firearm, might think twice. They escalate violence far more often than they prevent it, and that would be as true on school grounds as it is in private homes.

The NRA-backed notion that America can shoot its way out of the national problem with gun violence needs to be dismissed as a right-wing fantasy, and quickly. The tragedy at Newtown has galvanized popular opinion in favor of a set of simple reforms that will help keep the most dangerous firearms out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill: a ban on military-style assault weapons, a 10-round limit on magazines and universal background checks for all gun sales. These measures enjoy backing from President Barack Obama and Democrats in Washington, and Democratic lawmakers are working to tighten state gun restrictions. Meanwhile, Republicans and the NRA seem determined to sidetrack the public with proposals that have little chance of gaining widespread support but might well-serve as a distraction from real reform until public outrage has subsided and meaningful gun control is no longer a top priority in Washington or Sacramento.

Don’t let it happen. Reject Donnelly and the NRA, and support the real reforms proposed by President Obama and Democratic lawmakers in Sacramento.