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Opinion | Renée Graham

A killer combination: fear meets commerce

In February, the House passed the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, but Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has refused to bring it to the Senate floor for debate.
In February, the House passed the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, but Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has refused to bring it to the Senate floor for debate.Evan Vucci/Associated Press/File 2017/Associated Press

THANKS TO PRESIDENT Trump, I now know the proper way to apply a tourniquet to an arterial gunshot wound.

Thanks to Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, the next time I make a restaurant reservation, I’ll know to request a table near an exit.

And thanks to the NRA and their craven GOP zombies, I spent two hours learning such survival tools and more in “Aggressive Deadly Behavior Preparedness & Response” — or, as the session leader simply called it, “active shooter training.”

Yes, this is who we are now.

Meanwhile, Trump is creating jobs, all right — for the manufacturers of bulletproof backpacks for students, for stores selling guns in states where teachers and school staff are now allowed to be armed, and for active shooter trainers who teach us to feel safer by knowing when to freak out in the face of potential danger.

Fear meets commerce. In America, it’s a killer combination.


A false sense of security doesn’t come cheap. Backpacks that can stop bullets from guns (though not rounds from assault rifles) cost hundreds of dollars. A California school district recently signed a three-year, $35,000 contract extension with a company specializing in active shooter training and drills.

Never mind that there’s evidence that such drills can have the opposite effect on students — making them feel more, not less, anxious and frightened. Of course, stoking fear has always been a way to control the masses, even though the mass shootings than can dominate news cycles for days remain rare.

Also, remember that fear is codified in the Constitution. That’s the foundation of the Second Amendment, and it’s why the most extreme gun owners believe any law restricting ownership is a threat to their right to defend themselves. (Of course, at various points in American history, lots of white people weren’t as adamant about the right of African-Americans to bear arms.)


So there I sat with grim-faced coworkers, learning about choosing hotel rooms on lower floors and near staircases, and such terms as “danger box” — any workplace, house of worship, or other public location breeched by someone with a firearm and malicious intent.

What’s never discussed in these classes is how common-sense gun laws are far more important than teaching people to turn office supplies into makeshift weapons.

On Wednesday, Senate Democrats started a marathon session on the floor to protest inaction on gun reform. In February, their House counterparts passed the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, but Do-nothing Mitch has refused to even bring it to the Senate floor for debate.

Also on that day, Sandy Hook Promise, founded in Newtown, Conn., after 20 children and six educators in an elementary school were murdered in 2012 by a mass shooter, released one of the most devastating PSAs in recent memory.

Students, played by actors, show off their new back-to-school gear. When a school shooter becomes apparent, a boy uses his “cool” skateboard to break a window to escape. “These new socks can be a real lifesaver,” a girl says as she uses one of them as a tourniquet on a wounded student; another girl, holding the phone she always wanted, sends a text to her mother, perhaps for the last time.


It should be played on a loop in Congress and the White House. Not that it would make a difference.

Hoping we’ll all forget about El Paso, Dayton, and the many mass shootings that have happened on his watch, Trump is still stalling on what he once called “meaningful” gun reform. Meanwhile, we’ll keep buying bulletproof backpacks and making exit strategies for all the potential danger boxes in our lives. As fortunes built on fear are amassed, we’ll hear less about legislation to keep guns away from dangerous people and keeping weapons of war off American streets.

“Run, hide, fight,” we were told in our training session, is how we should respond in a mass crisis. The lack of leadership in Washington is also a crisis, and the same rules should be applied to Trump and McConnell, the domestic terrorists holding this nation hostage.

We need to stop hiding behind false solutions, fight to defeat them, and run them out of office.

Renée Graham can be reached at renee.graham@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @reneeygraham.