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Guns, Crazy People and a Crazy Culture

Despite a numbing number of mass shootings America over the past two decades there has no been no significant legislation passed to do anything about it. The past weekend’s killing sprees in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, however, seem different.
There is bipartisan support for so called “red flag laws,” which would allow the authorities to seize weapons from people deemed a risk to the public safety, and more than the usual number of Republicans are Congress willing to go along with expanding the background investigations of would-be gun-buyers and perhaps even reinstate a ban on so called “assault rifles.” This time around the public outcry to do something is louder than before, the National Rifle Association is still reeling from various scandals that have cost it membership and clout, and President Donald Trump is keeping his options open while eyeing the public opinion polls.
Even so, there’s still a good chance none of these things will become law, and reason to think it might not make much difference even if any of it did.
Republicans have long relied on the money and votes of the absolutist sorts of gun rights advocates, who reasonably fear that giving an inch on gun control might mean ceding a mile to the absolutist sorts of gun control advocates who want to deny even the most law-abiding gun owners of their right to self-defense, Trump continues to listen attentively to the NRA, and another couple mass shootings won’t change that. Calling semi-automatic rifles of a certain style “assault weapons” doesn’t change the fact that they’re very popular, nor the fact that their owners tend to turn out to vote and are mostly concentrated in the majority of less populous states that usually vote Republican in presidential elections. Most of the laws the Democratic House majority has passed and soon will pass have little chance of even getting a vote in the Senate so long as Republican Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell is the majority leader in the upper chamber.
Even with the tentative endorsement of Trump the “red flag” law will have trouble getting passed in the Senate, and if it does there’s a good chance Trump will have changed his mind a decided to veto it. Should the bill be signed into law, there’s a chance that someone deprived of his Second Amendment rights for a crime he might or might not commit will take his case to the courts Trump has lately packed with strict constitutionalists and have the law overturned.
In any case, nothing being debated in Congress will end mass shootings. Confiscating all the guns in America is as impossible as deporting all the illegal immigrants or ending the practice of abortion or stopping people from smoking marijuana. America could make it harder for the criminally insane to get their hands on high-powered firearms that quickly fire multiple rounds of ammunition, and should seriously consider any possible way of doing so, but aspiring mass murderers will then intensify their efforts.
The fault lies not with the country’s laws, as imperfect as they clearly are, but rather with a sick strain of our popular culture that celebrates violence. That’s coming from Hollywood on the left and the gun fetishists and street brawlers on the right, and goes far back in our frontier history. That can’t be fixed in Washington, D.C., but will require soul-searching and spiritual revival everywhere. In the meantime we’ll have another election, and perhaps the political calculations will change with the culture.

— Bud Norman

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Healing and Unity in the Age of Trump

President Donald Trump traveled to Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas on Wednesday to bring healing and unity to the two latest cities to suffer from mass shootings. The current political climate makes healing and unity hard to pull off, however, and healing and unity are not what Trump does best.
“I would like to stay out of the political fray,” Trump told reporters before departing on the trip, but he wound up lambasting the mayor of Dayton and one of Ohio’s United States Senators, as well as a few Democratic Texas politicians, along with a couple of other Democratic presidential candidates, and of course the “fake news” that was obliged to report on it. Several of Trump’s targets did politicize the tragedies in Dayton and El Paso, but Trump can’t rightly claim they started it.
Neither Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley nor Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown are big fans of Trump, but both promised they would welcome the president with the respect due to his office, and they seem have done so. Trump avoided the public at large, especially the angry protests in the neighborhood where the mass shootings occurred, but he was respectfully greeted by the local officials and escorted to a hospital where he met some of the victims and some of the first responders who had saved their lives. Afterwards, Whaley and Brown told a news conference that the hospital staff and victims and first responders all treated Trump with respect for his office and gratitude for his visit.
“They were hurting, he was comforting, he did the right thing, Melania did the right thing,” Brown said. Whaley said that “I think the victims and first responders were grateful the president of the United States came to Dayton.”
Both added they used the opportunity to make the case for stricter gun control measures Trump probably didn’t want to hear about, and that some of the staff and victims and first responders also told them they won’t be voting for Trump, as much as they appreciated the visit. Trump was apparently watching that part on television during his flight to El Paso, and before Air Force One landed he was “tweeting” that “The news conference after I left for El Paso was a fraud. It bore no resemblance to what took place.” The president’s social media director later clarified with Trump’s knack for random capitalizations and superfluous exclamation marks that “The President was treated like a Rock Star inside the hospital, which was all caught on video. They all loved seeing their great president!”
Media cameras weren’t allowed in the hospital, with Trump’s spokespeople saying they didn’t want to politicize the event, but Trump brought his own cameras and quickly released a slickly edited version with a swelling soundtrack on his “twitter” site. It sure seems to suggest that Trump was treated like a rock star, with everyone eager to vote for his reelection, but both Whaley and Brown were clearly surprised to be called liars for their kind words, and we suspect their characterization of what happened more accurately characterized the visit.
Trump had to dodge even more and even angrier protestors on the way to his hospital in El Paso, and had even more feuds to fight with the local Democratic politicians. Texas has long been a reliably Republican state, but El Paso is in a heavily Latino district with a Democratic representative in Congress and a mostly Latino leadership at City Hall, and Trump’s rhetoric regarding Latinos has not endeared him to a majority of the city.
The El Paso mayor made the same vow to treat Trump with the respect due his office, and seems to have done so, but Trump left town “tweeting” taunts at El Paso’s former representative and current long shot Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, and griping that the “fake news” wasn’t reporting how much everyone loves him. He also feuded with former Vice President and current Democratic primary frontrunner Joe Biden, who unwisely chose to politicize the tragedies for his own benefit.
Nobody seems to have scored any political points from the 30 deaths that occurred over the weekend in two fine American communities, but Trump seems to have gotten at least slightly the worst of it. Trump’s rhetoric regarding the “invasion” of America by Latinos was echoed in the on-line manifesto of the lunatic who killed 22 people in El Paso, Trump has already said he won’t back off from such language, and it’s hard to say that he brought any healing or unity to the country on Wednesday. Brown and Whaley were both respectful of the office and admirably frank about the office-holder and didn’t disgrace themselves, as far as we can tell, and O’Rourke and Biden and the rest of the Democrats can use Trump’s schoolyard excuse that he started it.
We’ll get down on our knees tonight and pray to God that He grants some healing and unity to the grieving citizens of Dayton and El Paso and everywhere else that has suffered the worst of human nature, which at this point is all we can think to do, and probably more than many of our elected leaders will do.

— Bud Norman

Another Bloody American Weekend

America had another bloody weekend, with a mass shooting on Saturday in El Paso, Texas, and another on Sunday in Dayton, Ohio, with a combined death toll of 29 people and scores more seriously injured. The incidents were the 31st and 32nd mass shootings of the year, and the second and third in the past week.
The shootings in Ohio seem to have been the result of a personal grievance the shooter had with at least one of his victims, but the far deadlier spree in Texas is being investigated as an act of domestic terrorism by a shooter motivated by hatred of Latino Americans. There have been several mass shootings and single murders in the past three years linked to white supremacist ideology, at synagogues and mosques and mostly black churches, with an American death toll exceeding that of radical islamist terrorism over the same time.
The racial aspect of the El Paso massacre is largely dominating the political debate this time around, of course. Many Democrats have been quick to say that President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies have emboldened his racist supporters, and although most Republicans have defended Trump they’ve often embarrassed themselves in the effort.
Over at The National Review, which has long been the preeminent journal of intellectual conservatism in America and has lately struggled to stay true to its principles in the age of Trump, the editors opined that white supremacy “deserves to be treated by the authorities in same manner as has been the threat posed by militant Islam.” This strikes us as inarguably true at this point, but many readers took to the comments board to make the most absurd arguments. One common response was to ask what about all the anti-white racism on the left, and why the National Review editors weren’t writing about that instead of the white guy who just shot and killed 20 brown-skinned people at an El Paso Wal-Mart. Others seemed to suggest that if we’d just deport all the brown-skinned people, and stop making all the potentially murderous racists feel so marginalized, there would be no need mass shootings by white supremacists. Even though the editorial made no mention of Trump, several readers objected to what they considered an implied criticism of their dear leader.
Which is not the Republican party or conservative philosophy we signed up for.
There is indeed an anti-white strain of racism in certain corners of the left, but what about it? Just as Hillary Clinton’s alleged and proved misdeeds don’t justify anything Trump has done, the white guilt mongering on the left in no way justifies someone shooting 20 random people at an El Paso Wal-Mart or driving a car into an anti-racism protest in Charlottesville, Virginia. Getting rid of all the darker-hued people is not the solution to racism, but rather an extreme act of racism. Trump can’t be held responsible for the act of a deranged racist in Texas, but he doesn’t seem to be helping to counter an increasingly bold and deadly white supremacist ideology the way an American president should.
We freely admit we have no solutions to the peculiarly American epidemic of mass shootings, and wish that both sides of the debate would be as frank. The left’s gun control solutions seem futile and likely to restrict the important right of self defense, but the right’s ideas about institutionalizing the mentally ill also seem far-fetched and likely to deprive entirely innocent and only slightly wacky Americans of their liberty. We think it might help if Hollywood made more movies that weren’t about murder and mayhem, and mass shooting video games were less common, but that’s unlikely to happen and any effort to force it would run into First Amendment problems. A respectful and deliberative discussion might yield some idea that would be helpful, but for the moment neither side seems much interested in that.
Most of these all-too-common mass shootings don’t have a racial aspect, but the ones that do should always be met by widespread condemnation of any racist ideology, and if it’s white supremacy it should be denounced by name, with no moral equivalence talk of what about the other haters. Perhaps Trump will get around to that today, as his daughter and advisors are urging him to do, and perhaps he’ll even start making a less explicitly racist case for some of his more sensible immigration policy ideas, and stop making jokes when his rally-goers shout “shoot ’em”¬†as he talks about immigrants.
We surely hope so, as we’re growing weary of all the hatred and bloodshed that are such a part of American life.

— Bud Norman