In the wake of the latest school massacre, Republican policymakers find themselves in a familiar position. Pressed for answers, GOP officials can’t get away with simply saying, “We’ll just bide our time for a while until something new dominates headlines and voters focus on something else.”
And so, Republicans deflect. The tropes are familiar, largely because mass shootings are outrageously common and the party has struggled to come up with new talking points. And so we hear the usual suspects talk about video games. And mental health. And arming teachers. And the scourge of secularization. If the script generates eye-rolling, it’s because the rhetoric is hollow and tiresome.
In fairness, however, I should note that there is one new GOP talking point that hasn’t traditionally been a major part of the conversation. It’s a focus on ... doors.
After an elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas left 19 kids and two adults dead, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) (who’s speaking at the NRA’s convention this Friday) argued yesterday that the problem isn’t that there are too many guns out there, it’s that schools have too many doors — more specifically, more than one door.
I initially thought the Texas Republican might’ve just blurted this out as a rhetorical tactic to get out of a difficult line of questioning, but it quickly became apparent that Cruz expects this to be taken seriously.
The Talking Points Memo report added, “Cruz made this point several times yesterday and retweeted clips of himself making it, so this wasn’t just some throwaway idea the GOP senator had. This is a spin he’s fully leaning into.”
The general idea, apparently, is that if a school has one point of entry, and that doorway is well guarded, a gunman might have greater difficulty killing people inside. Who needs gun control, the argument goes, when all we really need is door control?
There are a variety of reasons this is a difficult idea to take seriously. First, I’m reasonably sure this would be a serious fire hazard in many school buildings nationwide.
Second, a lot of schools have windows.
Third, I went to a public elementary school made up of several bungalow-style buildings, with students walking outdoors between them. Mandating “one door that goes in and out of the school” would be literally impossible.
Fourth, mass shootings don’t just happen in schools — and I’m not sure having one entry point to a grocery store is realistic.
Finally, there’s also reason to be skeptical of the underlying point. Juliette Kayyem, a veteran of the Obama administration’s Department of Homeland Security, and currently a lecturer in international security at Harvard, wrote overnight on Twitter, “The ‘one door’ theory of schools is not how we think about education or design, but it’s also not how we think about security. It actually is bad safety planning. A ‘psychopath’ would then just target the kids backed up in line and waiting for this ‘one door’ to let them through.”
Or put another way, those looking at Cruz’s idea as a credible policy proposal are almost certainly making a mistake.