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Arming teachers isn’t just a ridiculous idea. It’s a deliberate distraction.

When something like this consumes attention, the public and lawmakers don’t talk about the real issue.

nra Mark Wilson/Getty Images

In any other country in the world, the idea of arming teachers with guns in classrooms to protect children would be seen as the policy equivalent to random screaming. Yet in the United States, it’s an idea that now has support from President Donald Trump — who recently said that he’s willing to pay teachers “a little bit of a bonus” if necessary to arm and train them.

It’s feasible Trump and organizations like the National Rifle Association (NRA) genuinely think arming teachers is a good idea. But George Washington University political communications professor David Karpf has another potential explanation for why this is getting traction among supporters of gun rights: It’s a deliberate distraction.

It’s impossible to say what is truly in the NRA and Trump’s hearts and minds here or what their motivations could be. But it’s true that the discussion over arming teachers pushes the debate in the favor of those who want to keep the status quo of lax gun laws.

As we all concentrate on this, we leave aside other issues that the NRA would rather not talk about — from universal background checks to gun bans to confiscation schemes like Australia’s. So the ridiculous discussion sucks up the oxygen during the few weeks in which there’s a window to do something about guns, nothing happens, and the current situation remains.

This is also true about the focus on mental health care. Every time there’s a mass shooting, gun rights activists — including Republicans and the NRA — argue that the real problem behind mass shootings is the shooter’s mental health. As my colleague Dylan Matthews explained, that’s a very questionable claim — given that the US doesn’t have a monopoly on mental health issues but does have a monopoly on tremendous levels of gun ownership.

But even if you accept the premise that mental health is a major driver of America’s gun problem, with the exception of some individual lawmakers, Republicans are not the party proposing big boosts to mental health care in the US.

Quite the opposite: They spent much of last year trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), which expanded access to mental health care by getting people insurance that would pay for it. Trump’s budget in particular wouldn’t just eliminate Obamacare, it would also slash funding to other mental health programs — with the National Institute of Mental Health in particular seeing a 30 percent reduction in funding.

So why else would Republicans and the NRA bring up mental health? Because it lets them shift the conversation from guns. So, again, in the few weeks there’s a discussion over this issue, they can stay away from the topics that could lead to changes they don’t like.

We see this again and again. And it works. So the US continues doing little to nothing on guns, and horrific tragedies keep happening.