How Could Such A Tragedy Happen Again After The Last Time We Did Absolutely Nothing?
Seventeen children are dead after yet another school shooting, this time at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The shooter used an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle, and carried multiple magazines with him. It's time again for the thoughts and the prayers, for the ritual Fox News/NRA condemnations of "gun free zones," for the conspiracy theories and harassment of grieving parents by crazy people who read online that they're merely "crisis actors," and for the predictable Republican explanation that guns aren't the problem, mental health is the problem -- followed, after a decent interval, by calls to cut Medicaid and other help for mental health. And of course it's time for the usual surge in sales of semiautomatic rifles, because gun sales almost always spike after a mass shooting.
Donald Trump is doing his part in The Narrative:
And for once, Trump is at least slightly right: Of the shooter, a 19-year-old who had been expelled from the school for unspecified disciplinary problems, a former classmate said he was "a troubled kid" who liked to show off pictures of his gun collection and liked to joke about shooting up the school, saying he "knows the layout of the school" and "he could pinpoint where the kids would be" since he'd participated in drills with them:
Student says alleged school shooter was a "troubled kid" pic.twitter.com/O0zZ6An2XM— WSVN 7 News (@wsvn) February 14, 2018
The accused shooter's social media postings also were full of guns and violent fantasies, CNN reports. In YouTube comments, he had written
"I whana shoot people with my AR-15" (sic), "I wanna die Fighting killing shit ton of people" and "I am going to kill law enforcement one day they go after the good people."
And of course there were the mandatory Instagram posts showing him pointing guns and wearing a bandanna over his face. Others who knew him before he was expelled described him as becoming increasingly frightening, getting suspended from school, and being generally "weird." One former classmate told the Washington Post,
I think everyone in this school had it in the back of their mind that if anyone was supposed to do it, it was most likely gonna be him[.]
Jim Gard, a math teacher who'd had the shooter in his class last year, recalled that the administration had sent the kid's teachers a note telling them to watch out for behavior problems:
“I don’t recall the exact message,” Gard said, “but it was an email notice they sent out.”
“We were told last year that he wasn’t allowed on campus with a backpack on him,” Gard told the Miami Herald. “There were problems with him last year threatening students, and I guess he was asked to leave campus.”
So yes, plenty of warning signs. But there's one little problem with Donald Trump's advice for people to report "bad and erratic behavior" to the authorities: It's perfectly legal in the USA to post pictures of yourself posturing like Rambo with all your guns, and to have violent fantasies, and to fetishize firearms and wiping out cops. Heck, if you write a crappy novel about a lone lover of liberty wiping out agents of an unjust tyrannical government, you can sell it on Amazon yourself and make a tidy side income. Get together with a bunch of like-minded gun humpers and try to ram cops at a roadblock, and you can even become a genuine folk hero.fairly specific online threats. Simply being a violence-obsessed asshole who talks about wanting to kill people in general isn't a crime. If it were, some guy who fantasized about protesters having to leave his rallies on a stretcher and who made shooting gestures while talking about what should happen to Bowe Bergdahl probably wouldn't be president.
The Florida shooter purchased his gun legally and, since he had no significant criminal history, passed the required federal background check, so under US and Florida law, he was entitled to be a well-regulated member of the militia.
Because the Florida legislature is a wholly owned subsidiary of the NRA, virtually the only gun regulations that count are the federal ones; state laws on guns are among the most generous in the country. As the Giffords Law Center points out, there's no state requirement to register or license a gun except for concealed-carry permits for handguns, which state law says must be issued to anyone who meets minimal qualifications -- and in this case, concealed carry isn't even a concern. The only real restrictions on guns prohibit convicted felons from having them, and even those convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence can legally own guns -- and even get a concealed carry permit after three years have passed. (In accordance with federal law, firearm possession is prohibited for anyone with a current protection order against them for domestic violence, stalking, or cyberstalking -- again, that wouldn't apply to the Stoneman Douglas school shooter.)
Florida has no state restrictions, of course, on the sales of assault-style semiautomatic rifles (a category of weapon gun-humpers insist doesn't even exist), nor any limits on high-capacity magazines, so a would-be mass shooter can get lots of shots off before having to switch out a spent magazine -- which is often when a gun will jam or a bystander has a chance to tackle the gunman.
Oh, and one last, fairly important problem for Trump's insistence that we all need to be vigilant and report dangerous-seeming weirdos to the authorities: Unless someone has been involuntarily committed to a mental health institution or "adjudicated as mentally defective," there are no restrictions on firearm possession, and even after release from an institution, the appeals process is very friendly to someone wanting a gun. And to top it all off, the state in 2011 prohibited local governments from passing their own restrictions on firearms, to keep big-city liberals from destroying the sacred Second Amendment.
Get ready for the geniuses asking if we want to ban CARS, TOO.
As for current laws aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them, Mr. Trump's budget proposal calls for $12 million in cuts to the federal instant background check system used in firearms purchases, because of course it does.
As for those who fret that it's too soon to "politicize" yet another mass shooting, we'd refer you to Barack Obama's statement following the 2015 shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon:
Somehow this has become routine. The reporting is routine. My response here at this podium ends up being routine. The conversation in the aftermath of it. We've become numb to this [...]
And, of course, what’s also routine is that somebody, somewhere will comment and say, Obama politicized this issue. Well, this is something we should politicize. It is relevant to our common life together, to the body politic [...]
This is a political choice that we make to allow this to happen every few months in America. We collectively are answerable to those families who lose their loved ones because of our inaction. When Americans are killed in mine disasters, we work to make mines safer. When Americans are killed in floods and hurricanes, we make communities safer. When roads are unsafe, we fix them to reduce auto fatalities. We have seatbelt laws because we know it saves lives. So the notion that gun violence is somehow different, that our freedom and our Constitution prohibits any modest regulation of how we use a deadly weapon, when there are law-abiding gun owners all across the country who could hunt and protect their families and do everything they do under such regulations doesn’t make sense. [emphasis added -- ed.]
TL;DR version: You're damn right this is politicized. These weapons are out there, with very few restrictions on who can own them and how many rounds they can fire, because the gun lobby has pushed politicians to make them readily available. There's a lot of money to be made selling these things, and by selling the fear that the government will take all guns away if any restrictions on guns ever pass.
And so we type this same piece again and again, and we tweet out, again and again, that Onion headline: "‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens."
Also, about that:
We need to be a lot angrier at how routine this has become. We need to take action to make sure this routine changes. It won't be easy, but we have to make it harder for satire to become real life. Hug your kids. Call your representatives and senators. ELECT DEMOCRATS.
You have our permission to skip this morning’s tithe to Wonkette and throw some money at Everytown for Gun Safety, Gabby Giffords’s Americans for Responsible Solutions, Moms Demand Action, and the Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence. Be safe.
Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.