Christian Kaufman, 9, walks past an American flag while carrying an airsoft gun in a holster during an open carry firearm rally on the sidelines of the annual National Rifle Association (NRA) meeting in Dallas, Texas. (Reuters: Adrees Latif)
The post-tragedy choreography after another day of gun murder in America — this time in Texas — was exactly as we have grown accustomed to experiencing. The unspeakable grief of the parents. The traumatised students, who now live with these fears every day.
As Santa Fe High School student Paige Curry said on Friday, “I’ve always kind of felt like eventually it was going to happen here too”, and not simply be a far-away horror in Florida, or Colorado or Connecticut.
This President reprised his past condolences, interrupting a session in the White House on prison reform to offer small comforts.
He has it down pat.
“This has been going on too long in our country. Too many years, too many decades now. We grieve for the terrible loss of life and send our support and love to everyone affected by this absolutely horrific attack to the students, families, teachers, and personnel at Santa Fe High,” he said.
“We’re with you in this tragic hour, and we will be with you forever. My administration is determined to do everything in our power to protect our students, secure our schools, and to keep weapons out of the hands of those who pose a threat to themselves and to others. Everyone must work together at every level of government to keep our children safe.”
Everything in your power, Mr President, except embracing effective measures to make sure guns are not so readily available.
This undated photo from Facebook shows Dimitrios Pagourtzis, who law enforcement officials have taken into custody and identified as the suspect. (AP: Facebook )
NRA says it’s all Ritalin’s fault
And whenever Donald Trump goes too far in expressing sympathy for some tougher measures on guns, the National Rifle Association (NRA) reels him back into their boat.
They now will be led by a convicted felon, Oliver North, who helped send weapons to Iran during the Reagan presidency. Not the same calibre as Charlton Heston. Mr North clearly demarked the remedies approved by the NRA.
“We’re trying like the dickens to treat the symptom without treating the disease. And the disease in this case isn’t the Second Amendment,” he said.
“The disease is youngsters who are steeped in a culture of violence. They’ve been drugged, in many cases. Nearly all of these perpetrators are male. And they’re young teenagers, in most cases. They’ve come through a culture where violence is commonplace — all you need to do is turn on a TV, go to a movie.
“If you look at what’s happened to these young people — many of these young boys have been on Ritalin since they were in kindergarten. I am certainly not a doctor — I’m a Marine. But I can see those kinds of things happening.”
For the NRA, and Mr Trump, it’s never about the guns. It’s always about arming teachers and hardening schools, and getting rid of gun free zones, and more freedom to carry concealed weapons so that victims can shoot back at the killers.
But nothing about reducing access to guns.
Mr Trump told the NRA earlier this month that gun rights will “never, ever be under siege as long as I’m your President”. (Reuters: Jonathan Ernst )
‘Your child isn’t gonna be shot’
More than 214,000 students have gone through gun violence at schools over the past 20 years. There have been 16 school shootings this year alone, and more than 1,600 mass shootings in America since 20 children and six adults were murdered in Sandy Hook Connecticut five years ago.
More Americans have been killed in schools this year than have lost their lives in military service to their country.
Mr Trump told the NRA earlier this month that gun rights would “never, ever be under siege as long as I’m your President”.
Shooting victims named:
- Cynthia Tisdale (teacher)
- Sabika Sheikh
- Chris Stone
- Jared Black
- Shana Fisher
- Glenda Anne Perkins (teacher)
- Kimberly Vaughan
- Angelique Ramirez
- Christian Riley Garcia
- Aaron Kyle McLeod
This cannot be squared with what Mr Trump pledged during the presidential campaign:
“I’ll be able to make sure that when you walk down the street in your inner city, or wherever you are, you’re not gonna be shot. Your child isn’t gonna be shot.”
In this calculus of carnage, there is nothing that this President or Congress will undertake.
The Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, will convene meetings to air views and get some guidance. And in this, there may be a ray of hope building on what happened in Florida.
Florida’s governor, Rick Scott, convened such meetings after Parkland. He is a true-blue conservative with a strong NRA rating. But this Governor came to support a new law that raised the purchase age for guns from 18 to 21, and provided more money for mental health treatment. But it also initiated a program to train and arm teachers.
This is called “balance” by many as they work through the gun debate in America.
The underlying politics of the Florida experience, however, may prove over time to begin to make a difference. When children across the country who are coming of age begin to register to vote to express their anger and terror, and when their parents, from all walks of life, are terrified for their children and want something sensible done to protect them as they go about their education — if this nascent movement in Florida and now perhaps Texas can take hold, there may be a chance for new laws in more states to limit the ready access to guns.
Guns violence breeding single issue voters
This may be the cusp of a bubble-up movement, born in neighbourhoods and carpools.
The NRA has such a hold on Trump and so many politicians because so many of their members are single-issue voters on gun rights.
We may be seeing, in Florida and Texas, the emergence of single-issue voters on gun control as opposed to gun rights, particularly among the young now demanding their political leaders act on gun laws.
The epidemic of gun violence on America is such that we expect more massacres in schools. It can happen any day, anywhere.
We will see this November, in the first elections since this new student-led movement, whether there will be more American leaders across the political spectrum who understand the imperative of doing more on gun violence to save the lives of their children in school.
It’s the only hope we have right now.