14 February saw 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz allegedly enter Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and murder 17 people with a gun. The event marked the 32nd mass shooting of 2018 in America. A year we have only just begun.
Donald Trump responded to the crisis with a six-minute statement from the White House. He quoted the bible, sent prayers, and encouraged Americans to ‘strive for a much better tomorrow’. In terms of ideas on how to reach this ‘better tomorrow’ he offered little direction.
The onus was apparently on the people who had been helplessly shot at to do the striving. For whilst sobbing students screamed into microphones, begging for gun control and rational response, all Trump could do was take to Twitter to place blame on everything but his beloved second amendment.
‘Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign - there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud!’
Away from the guidelines of a pre-drafted script, Trump’s remarks sounded far less sympathetic, far more self serving and far more, well, Trump-ish. Ever one to find a way to be smug and selfish in the face of tragedy, Trump somehow managed to make a school shooting about himself and a way to political point score.
One thing Trump was adamant the shooting wasn’t about however, was guns. Trump put the fact Cruz was able to shoot up a school and kill 17 people down to mental illness. Granted, Cruz was definitely a disturbed individual. Yet by synonymizing mental illness alone with evil, Trump demonized the thousands of Americans living with a mental illness who don’t start killing sprees. At best, mental illness can only answer the question of ‘why’ Cruz conducted a mass shooting. It can never explain the question of ‘how’.
How this was able to happen is the question that Trump (and every other gun lover) has been avoiding. To answer this would encroach on their forbidden topic of gun control. More to the point, in Trump’s case, it would mean acknowledging blame. This is because approximately one year ago, on the 28th February 2017, Trump repealed an Obama-era regulatory initiative that made it harder for people with mental illnesses to buy a gun. Yes, Trump essentially made it easier for the section of American society he has publicly blamed for the Parkland School shooting, to buy a gun.
The impact of the Obama initiative was always going to be limited. Yet whilst a far cry from what was so badly needed, it still pushed the limits of a strong congressional opposition. The fact Trump still felt the need to repeal such a miniscule control only further exposes just how infatuated with guns (and funneled with the National Rifle Association’s money) he is.
America’s love of guns is an unrequited one. With almost 8,000 many Americans dead from gun violence this year, the passion fuelled defence of the second amendment is a bizarre one to say the least. Yet through the pain of shootings like that in Parkland on Wednesday rises a generation that is fed up of heart break, fed up of prayers and fed up of defending a weapon that has brought them nothing but pain. There will come a day when America breaks up with her second amendment, but the split will always be messy.