The NRA’s Opposition to Bloomberg and its Implications for Education Reform

Members of the National Rifle Association criticized Lord Michael Bloomberg at their annual conference in St. Louis this past Friday. Bloomberg has been outspoken in his support of gun control. While I have little sympathy with the NRA, their criticisms put a finger on something important:

“I think Mayor Bloomberg is the epitome of the nanny state, of the elite executives that want to control everything and control people’s lives,” he (an NRA member) said.

A statement Bloomberg made in February illustrates the arrogant and out of touch way he handles sensitive issues:

“The NRA’s leaders weren’t even interested in public safety,” Bloomberg told The News this week. “They were interested in promoting a culture where people take the law into their own hands and face no consequences for it.”

That is a thick and curious statement. To be sure, “Stand your ground” laws are reprehensible. However, I think the goal of the NRA leaders is to prop up the weapons industry. Saying that they want to promote “a culture where people take the law into their own hands and face no consequences for it” falls short of the mark. The talk about “consequences” feeds into criticisms about Bloomberg’s association with the “nanny state”. He is all about using his power to hold people “accountable” for doing things and making choices with which he does not agree.

The states that have Stand your Ground laws are, by and large, those with a healthy streak of mistrust for the state. In a perverted way, the voters who support these laws do have a concern with public safety. They do not trust the government’s ability to protect them from crime, so they will protect themselves. That is not to say lawmakers and lobbyists believe it. Their goal is to keep guns rolling out of factories. They have clad these Stand your Ground laws in a cloak of rugged individualism as a way to sell them to voters.

Gun enthusiasts are fond of quoting the second amendment, not to mention isolated passages from Thomas Jefferson and other Founding Fathers. The belief is that the Second Amendment allows people to bear arms as a way to protect against the tyranny of the state. Indeed, when you couple Bloomberg’s support for gun control with his support for stop and frisk and his statements about the NYPD being his own personal army, it would seem the gun enthusiasts are onto something.

But it is pretty clear that the second amendment was a way to preclude the need for standing armies. The Founders saw standing armies as tools of monarchal tyranny. Having citizen-soldiers in the tradition of Greek hoplites was seen as the proper way for a republic to defend itself. It seems this is what the Founders meant when they portrayed the citizens’ right to bear arms as a defense against the tyranny of government.

The fact is that, in 2012, we do have a standing army. We also have militarized police forces like the NYPD. No matter how many automatic weapons the populace owns, it will not prevent an organized and well-armed military force from having their way if the time comes.

The fact of the matter is, the government does not need to impose martial law or send tanks down Main Street to oppress us. They are doing a good enough job of that through legislation, executive orders and Supreme Court rulings. While the state has become more draconian over the past 35 years, they have done so at the behest of the corporate. Through the control of the media, finance, technology and every other facet of human life, corporations have organized society in such a way that martial law becomes unnecessary.

So when members of the NRA talk about Bloomberg’s association with the nanny state, they put their finger on something. His support of gun control, his education policy, his quality of life initiatives all represent an arrogant paternalism. However, it is not the paternalism of the state exclusively. It is the paternalism of corporatized government. It is the idea that people cannot run their own lives and need business to organize life for them. That is what charter schools are all about. That is why Bloomberg stops short of criticizing the role of gun manufacturers in the NRA.

People on the correct side of the education reform debate may have to make some strange alliances. One of those alliances will have to be with the states’ rights part of the electorate. As more states promise to sign on to Obama’s Race to the Top we will see more blowback from people, mostly in the south and west, who oppose it on grounds that it is a gross federal overreach. We have seen this play out in South Carolina’s rejection of RTT.

The common ground between advocates of public education and members of the political right is the belief in community input into public schools. The tragedy of mayoral control in New York City is how far it has taken us from democratic oversight of education policy. Since the 1960s, local communities in NYC have been prevented from having any say in the schools that serve them. The last vestige of democracy was the popularly elected Board of Education. That was done away with when Bloomberg created the Panel for Educational Policy, the majority of whose members vote the way Mayor for Life Bloomberg wants them to.

Race to the Top represents the paternalism of mayoral control writ large. The fact that states have to sign on to the program is a subterfuge. It gives the illusion of respecting the idea of states’ rights and the traditional role state governments have played as leaders of their own education systems. In truth, once a state signs on to RTT they have abdicated all control of education policy to Uncle Arne in Washington. They must open up more charter schools and evaluate teachers based on data-driven nonsense, or else they do not get federal funding.

America’s schools have never been so top-heavy before. Starting with the president but working its way down to governors, mayors and principals, school systems have been given over to increasing centralization. This runs counter to every educational tradition in the United States. These are the points we must make in order to reach across the aisle to those on the political right. We all want to give communities more control over education policy, since each community knows best how to serve their unique student population.

This is an alliance fraught with difficulty. It has the potential to founder on issues of class and race. Libertarian-minded voters might not mind the corporate aspects of education reform and all of the million-dollar contracts it entails. Community control in places like NYC means giving mostly minority communities a say in education policy. However, areas of the south have used the concept of local school control as a way to bar minorities from equal educational opportunities. These are the major fault lines that would develop in an alliance between us and the political rights.

It is still an alliance worth exploring. The movement known as education reform has so much traction because it is bipartisan. Only a bipartisan counter-attack would have a chance of standing up to education reform. There is room for such a counter-attack if we stick to the themes that unite us for now.

8 responses to “The NRA’s Opposition to Bloomberg and its Implications for Education Reform

  1. william wallace

    That one needs a gun to protect their property as family is
    understandindable / the media is constantly putting out the
    message that one is under threat from within or as without.

    As of late decades / more so last two decades terrorism but
    used as a cover in removing the rights of the people where
    govt in having a steel grip upon the individuals movements
    as opinions unto the point that freedom // but now a illusion.

    POLiticians as politics having become so corrupted / that an
    election be a appalling farce / a group of political fraudsters
    only but exchanged for another group of political fraudsters.

    Politicians in placing themselves / above as beyond the law
    while the people having been stripped of all rights / that any
    individual now be arrested. No trial / No charges be brought
    No legal representation allowed / the individual being simply
    left to rot in a prison cell / being deprived of all human rights.

    Through illegal wars the nation left bankrupt / “$TRILLIONS”
    wasted on wars / in setting up failing puppet govts / millions
    killed / for no true purpose / but that of malice as of brutality
    destrucion / suffering / death / such bringing a river of tears.

    Indeed it more than understandable that some need having
    a gun as protection // against the horror that humans being
    capable in committing // thus be able protecting themselves.

  2. the average response time for a 911 call in my community is 23 minutes. I carry a gun because I cannot carry a cop. I don’t think our army will turn on its own people in its entirety . . . there will be a divide and conquer scenario based on race and/or political affiliations. Most people have no intention on attacking the gov’t . . . but if they are cornered they will fight to protect what is theirs . . . hence the cliche . . . “you can have my gun when you pry it from my cold dead fingers.”

    On another note . . . as we have witnessed in Iraq and Afghanistan, the military does not fare to well in an urban environment . . . if their is no difinitive line for them to secure, there would be a continuous chaos. A “broken arrow” scenario wold ensue, where their lines would be subject to a perpetual barrage from the inside.

    Remember the odds were stacked against George Washington and we all know the outcome of the American Revolution.

    P.S. “Automatic Weapons?” Sure you don’t mean semi-automatic weapons or autoloaders? There is a big difference! About $10,000 on the average; Some fully automatic weapons go for $50K. A few can be found for less than $5K but not many. IN any case, the process to purchase one of them is outrageous and rightfully so . . . . extremley invasive.

  3. That’s the beautiful thing about where we’re at right now – there are opportunities for alliances everywhere. Yeah, there’s some hard and fast lines drawn for one group that another just wouldn’t cross, but there’s even more common ground. I think as we start coming together more in that shared space, we can start unifying our joint interests to reclaim some of the commons we’ve lost.

  4. We need to take public school spending back to 1950 levels. Cut the wasteful spending 80% immediately. Back then we were able to teach students who would put men on the moon in the late 1960’s.


    • william wallace

      Wayne / most (the majority of americans) are at present living on the moon / they having had decades of 24 / 7 media brainwashing.

      Wot’s happening is the internet allows american people in being told truth where informed of reality not fiction /thus many americans are starting to form independent opinions / resulting in politicians taking
      extreme measures // in preperation where americans start marching in hundreds of thousands / demanding an end to political corruption
      demanding a return to that of true democracy / that of true freedom.

      Thus the law having been changed that any individual be arrested in
      facing no charge / no court appearance / where being refused legal
      representation / where left to rot in a prison cell deprived of all rights.

      USA politicians as their wealthy backers now intend in silencing the internet / such means used that again terrorism be used as a cover
      giving politicians the power needed (via corrupt law) having people arrested / where their only fault is in questioning corrupt politicians.

      The original concept of govt’s / being those choosen by the people
      were the servants of the people a voice in maintaining the rights of the people. Through decades of political corruption /such situation
      being reversed / the people in becoming the servants of politicians.

      What having been done to american people being an grave crime decades & decades of brain development which having been lost
      living through a constant stream of media brainwashing which but
      having taught as brought americans unto the worst perceptions of humanity /which having resulted in america’s isolation from reality
      resulting in ongoing preperation for war / via media brainwashing.

      It long overdue // that once again american people tasted that of
      true democracy / true freedom / free from / media brainwashing.

  5. With regard to Bloomberg’s quote on the NRA, I think he only got a few letters wrong in one word. It should have been “They were interested in proTECTING a culture where people take the law into their own hands and face no consequences for it.”

    The SYG laws and the more watered down Castle Doctrine have shown themselves to be open to abuse/misuse in cases such as Joe Horn and, more recently, Greyston Garcia (the latter did not involve a gun) but all comments from the NRA indicate that they believe these laws are untouchable and they resist any suggestion that the laws should, at the very least, be subject to scrutiny. That’s why they’re such an abhorrent organisation.

  6. I cant really be bothered to describe the gun laws in Poland, but to put it shortly, it has one the strictest gun control laws in Europe. U need a firearms licence to even but a crossbow. As a result we officially have one of the lowest number of registered gun owners in Europe.

    Someone might think this to be great until they consider that these are just the numbers of registered owners. Its easy very very easy to buy an illegal gun, you need about 700 usd, and to ask the right people. This has led to a particularly interesting situation: a normal law abiding citizen, in most cases cant get a gun as it requires shit loads of money, psych evaluation every 5 years, and a reason for wanting to own a gun – self defence is only valid if you can prove ur life is in danger . On the other hand, criminals, and people who are planning to use firearms for illegal activities, can get guns cheap, and without serial numbers. Im sorry to go slightly off topic, and speak about gun laws here and not in the states, but i feel that the current polish gun control laws can serve as worning, showing how the in fact gun control can cause more harm than good.

    As and end note: Put yourself in the brain of a thief, he wont break in to steal your tv if he knows you there is a large chance you’ll shoot his balls off.

  7. Bloomberg is a walking contradiction on his views of what is appropriate for the safety of his city. Surely if he really wanted to stop crime in New York, he would just shut down the Federal Reserve.

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