WHAT on earth can be said about another mass shooting in the US? That’s the wretched dilemma facing anyone who wishes to write about these tragic events.
All the sensible observations you can make have already been made. With due modesty, I’ve made most of them here more than once. And they can be boiled down to one obvious truth: it’s about the guns, stupid.
School shootings are a particularly awful sub-section of America’s greatest self-inflicted wound. Since 1989, 97 children have been killed and 126 injured in mass shootings. What sort of a country allows that to happen? And that’s to ignore all the everyday mass shootings in places other than schools.
The reaction to each shooting usually runs like this: shock and horror at more senseless killings; mournful mutterings that this time ‘something must be done’; the muttering dies down; nothing is done; then someone opens fire some place else. And the circle of no virtue begins all over again.
The latest gun atrocity saw teenager Nikolas Cruz allegedly open fire at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school, in Parkland, Florida, from which he’d been expelled. In what appears to have been a revenge shooting spree, he allegedly shot 17 people dead, using what is thought to have been an AR-15 rifle – “American’s favourite rifle”, according to a report in Time magazine.
Who knew America had a favourite rifle. Is it the best one for indiscriminate slaughter; does it come with free Hershey bars or something? Maybe it fires patriotic bullets into the bodies of innocent children.
The alleged gunman is reported to have bought the rifle lawfully in Florida more than a year ago: does that mean he was only 18 at the time? If so, US gun laws are even more stupid than we realised.
In the absence of anything to say – other than, “Put down those guns; it’s the guns that kill people; that’s what they’re made for…” etc – let’s follow a few Twitter trails. People can be dismissive about Twitter, but it can act as a vent for expression of thoughts and useful anger.
The Tweeter in chief, Donald Trump, put out a typical response – “So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad or erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!”
You will notice the President does not mention guns, preferring to put the weight on mental illness (and exclamation marks). This is a typical tactic of the gun lobby: find something else to blame, other than the hot piece of metal that fires bullets into people.
A response to that bullet-free Tweet from Trump came from podcaster Gabriella Mirabelli: “You *personally* reversed an Obama-era regulation on gun-purchase background checks for those with mental illness. If there is a person to blame, look in the mirror.”
The journalist and writer Erica Buist, who writes for The Guardian, tweeted to Trump: “Why not just ban guns and when people are upset about it, just send them thoughts and prayers? If ‘thoughts and prayers’ are good enough for people who’ve lost their families then it’s good enough for people who’ve lost their guns.”
One of the president’s puppets, the conservative commentator and Trump advocate Tomi Lahren, a sort of right-wing Barbie doll if her Twitter picture speaks true, offered the following thoughtful contribution: “Can the Left let the families grieve for even 24 hours before they push their anti-gun and anti-gunowner agenda? My goodness. This isn’t about a gun it’s about another lunatic. #FloridaShooting.”
Before you start spluttering, “No, it’s about a possibly mentally ill person with a gun…”, let’s hear from someone who was there.
Carly Novell is 17 and she survived the Florida shooting.
She sent a tweet in reply to Tomi Lahren. This is what Carly said: “I was hiding in a closet for 2 hours. It was about guns. You weren’t there, you don’t know how it felt. Guns give these disgusting people the ability to kill other human beings. This IS about guns and this is about all the people who had their life abruptly ended because of guns.”
In his address to the nation – other than that non-stop Twitter address – Donald Trump avoided talking about guns, appeared calmly accepting of the appalling situation, saying: “It is not enough to take actions that make us feel we are making a difference. We must actually make that difference.”
Well, yes – and the biggest difference you could make would be to do something about guns. But you have no intention of doing that, do you, Donald?
Instead, Trump toured the hospitals and told everyone involved in this latest tragedy “what a great job” they’d done. Well, yes, a better job than Trump and the US political establishment.