Republican presidential candidate former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) speaks during the Sunshine Summit conference being held at the Rosen Shingle Creek on Nov. 14, 2015 in Orlando, Fla.
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty

Santorum to student marchers: Instead of activism, take CPR classes

There were plenty of unfortunate far-right reactions to the March for Our Lives over the weekend, but only one of them was so outlandish, I genuinely thought it was satirical.

CNN commentator and former Pennsylvania GOP Sen. Rick Santorum on Sunday suggested students protesting for gun control legislation would be better served by taking CPR classes and preparing for active shooter scenarios.

“How about kids instead of looking to someone else to solve their problem, do something about maybe taking CPR classes or trying to deal with situations that when there is a violent shooter that you can actually respond to that,” Santorum said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

In case there are any doubts, the video makes clear that the Pennsylvania Republican wasn’t kidding. Santorum, who’s paid actual money to offer insights on public affairs, genuinely seemed to believe this was a constructive response to the March for Our Lives.

He was mistaken.

Let’s first note that, in Santorum’s mind, part of the problem is that these student activists want “someone else to solve their problem.” But in this case, the “problem” is the nation’s gun laws. If these young people were elected members of Congress, Santorum’s argument might be more coherent, but since they’re not, I have no idea what the former senator is thinking.

It’s a bit like saying the women who marched for the right to vote, or the civil-rights activists who marched for equal treatment under the law, wanted “someone else to solve their problem” because they organized events to demand changes to the law.

What’s more, I’m not sure if Santorum understands the limited utility of CPR in the event of a mass shooting. Bullets fired from a semi-automatic assault rifle are incredibly efficient at doing what they’re designed to do: destroying their target.

We’re not talking about people having heart attacks. Following a slaughter, having kids apply CPR to victims will not save lives.

But for Santorum – who, just two election cycles ago, was the runner-up in the race for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination – the takeaway from gun violence is some kind of ridiculous lesson about personal responsibility. Students confronting carnage shouldn’t call for changes to ineffective public policies, the argument goes, but rather they should better prepare themselves for more carnage.

And to think, this guy lost re-election in his home state by 17 points.