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Rick Santorum: School Shooting Survivors Should Take 'CPR Classes' Instead of Petitioning for Gun Safety Laws

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Former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) suggested that the "March for our Lives" movement is an excuse by young people to deflect meaningful change onto "someone else."


On CNN's State of the Union on Sunday morning, the former presidential candidate and CNN Senior Political Commentator told host Brianna Keilar that the student survivors of last month's massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School should take more personal responsibility for preventing gun violence. After blaming the "Hollywood elites" and "liberal billionaires" whom he accused of funding the movement, Santorum's advise was for the students to learn CPR—CPR, to be used on people riddled with bullets, during an active shooter scenario.

"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 violent shooter, that you can actually respond to that."

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Keilar pointed out to Santorum that by petitioning the government to pass meaningful legislation that would save lives, the students are acting exactly as the conservative pundit said they should—and that asking Congress to pass gun safety measures isn't "looking at other people" to mitigate the problem. Santorum disagreed.

"Yeah, they took action to ask someone to pass a law. They didn't take action to say, 'how do I, as an individual, deal with this problem?'" Santorum said. He then continued to peddle the idea that high school students with CPR knowledge could have saved the lives of their classmates, whose bodies were ripped apart by bullets from an AR-15. He opined that the students should have more tools to lessen the damage done by a shooter armed with an AR-15. "What am I going to do to actually help respond to a shooter...here's how I'm going to help the situation, instead of going and protesting and saying, oh, someone else needs to pass a law to protect me."

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Students at the Parkland, Florida high school were subject to routine active shooter drills. The school's armed guard, a sheriff's deputy who was trained and put in place to help stop this exact situation, failed to do so. Santorum's notion that teenagers with CPR training would have been able to make any discernible difference has no logical or circumstantial basis. While some students and teachers demonstrated heroic bravery by helping their classmates to safety, most were barricaded in closets, powerless to do anything but hope they'd make it out alive. But Santorum remained steadfast in his dissent, even going so far as to imply that students, not laws or regulation, bore the responsibility of preventing the attack in the first place.

"I'm proud of them," Santorum said of the students, "but I think everyone should be responsible and deal with the problems we have to confront in our lives. And ignoring these problems and saying they're not going to come to me, and saying some phony gun law is going to solve it, phony gun laws don't solve these problems. That's what we found out."

Except what Santorum is claiming is completely untrue. Signed into law in 1994 by President Bill Clinton, the Federal Assault Weapons ban led to substantial decreases in gun violence and gun-related deaths. In fact, the ten worst mass shootings in our country's history occurred "either before or after the ban was in effect," wrote George J. Michael of the Boston Globe. The ban was allowed to expire in 2004 by President George W. Bush and his Republican-controlled Congress. Sensible gun control saves lives, and the United States Supreme Court has ruled that assault weapons bans do not violate the right to bear arms guaranteed by the Second Amendment.

"Mass shootings fell by 37 percent during the ban and then increased by 183 percent after it lapsed. Also, gun deaths from mass shootings fell by 43 percent during the ban, and then increased by 239 percent afterward."

And, of course, statistics don't lie.

"But even with the horrible event of 1999 [Columbine], the data shows that the assault weapons ban reduced mass shootings in America," according to analysis performed by the Huffington Post, "and letting the ban expire dramatically increased the number of mass shootings in the United States."

Santorum's comments drew immediate backlash on social media. His remarks on Sunday are the latest in a decades-long slew of nonsensical analogies.

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Get it together, CNN.