Around a week ago, I had a small tussle with an American parent in the comments section of a Facebook post. She had four kids and "many guns", which were locked up securely so there would never be a gun accident in her house. She was confident of that. She criticised the media for trying to discuss gun control in the wake of the Sutherland Springs shooting because it over-emotionalises it. Normally, I would agree with not making rash decisions in the aftermath of a tragedy but here's the problem when it comes to America and gun violence - there isn't enough time between mass shootings to ever have that rational discussion.
I didn't want to be proven right but I was, horribly and senselessly yesterday as another lone man took aim at an elementary school in California, having already killed his neighbour and three other people. It was only because American schools are so well trained in shooter drills that the casualties weren't far, far worse - the shooter tried his hardest to kill those children and eventually walked away frustrated because there were no kids to be found. Some were injured by flying glass and one by the shots themselves but overall the incident has been classed as a "could have been so much worse", in the words of Tehama County Assistant Sheriff Phil Johnston. Even the President seemed unperturbed by it, failing to tweet his condolences to the correct town.
Still, how desensitised to violence do you have to be to shrug this off? Four people dead, others with life-threatening injuries, children hiding under desks as glass shards fly around them? If an incident like this doesn't get the conversation moving about gun control, what will? Do we have to wait for another Sandy Hook where the gunman manages to access that classroom and finish what he started? The very thought of it makes me nauseus.
And no, we don't have time to wait. There have been 17 mass shootings in November so far - more than one a day (source: Gun Violence Archive). 39 dead, 92 injured. If we had those kind of stats in the UK, Trump would be ranting about #brokenbritain. I mean, we have our own problems with violence in London - specifically knife crime and acid attacks - but we haven't had 131 people dead or injured since the start of the month.
There's a problem and no one is doing anything solid in terms of a solution.
A good place to start the change would be Tehama's own representative, Doug LaMalfa who has been an outspoken defender of the 2nd Amendment. Just this March, he released a statement boasting about how he'd defended veterans' rights to own firearms. On his personal website, he puts it even more strongly saying "I believe firmly in the individual right to keep and bear arms. I will fight any attempt to water down or weaken our rights, while pushing to ensure our rights to hunt and defend ourselves are expanded."
Doug LaMalfa, it is sheer luck that there wasn't a massacre of children on your turf. Sheer luck and good planning from teachers who must always imagine and practise for the worst case scenarios. Four people are still dead on your turf. Is it maybe time to make the kind of statement that saves lives instead of rights? His facebook page and twitter feed have both been curiously quiet since the incident.
And that's the problem right there. The gun lobby go silent in the wake of a tragedy and never answer the awkward questions from the people they claim to represent. The heat is on LaMalfa right now but next week there'll be a new shooting and the focus will move away and he can get back to protecting those veterans' rights to own guns, regardless of their mental health. And this is why we never get to having the important conversations.
When will you have those conversations, America? What will it take?