After a certain point, doing nothing is an implicit endorsement of the status quo. In the United States more than 33,000 people die in firearm-related deaths each year, the attack in Sutherland Springs, Texas is the 377th mass shooting in 2017. Barely a month ago, the United States experienced its deadliest mass shooting in the modern era, when Stephen Paddock killed 58 and left 546 injured in the space of ten minutes.
This shooting did something no other mass shooting had managed to do in recent years, it reignited the gun control debate in Republican circles.
Of course, that debate ended quickly. The short-lived case against “bump stocks” went nowhere, despite the NRA offering token support for a review. Public discourse has moved on and mass shootings have continued unhindered, bringing us to today.
At time of publication, the most recent update in Texas has at least 26 dead, with more than 20 injured. The dead range in age from five to seventy-two. The shooter was a white male aged 26.
But, these facts don’t matter. None of the statistics about this shooting go any way to explaining his motives, and even then, his motives are irrelevant, because attribution of motive in these matters don’t prevent them from happening.
The fact is, this occurred because he has easy and open access to firearms, because he lives in the United States of America.
Every time there is a mass shooting in the US, we move through the same pattern:
- Thoughts and prayers are offered by politicians and those in the media. The net effect is zero. Discussion of gun control is off the menu within a week. There can be as many as SIX HUNDRED victims, and yet within one month, we’ve already moved on the the next mass shooting.
- In the time, there is a short discussion over what gun control legislation would look like. Australia is brought up, possibly Jim Jefferies, maybe even the John Oliver three-piece from The Daily Show, rumours and conspiracy theories float around social media. The Onion republishes this article.
- “Sandy Hook, the last mass shooting, Chicago, black lives matter/Dems/leftists, Trump tweet.”
- Long empty debates to discuss the semantics of calling the shooter a terrorist or a hodgepodge of white, male, mentally ill, conservative, lone wolf.
- NRA donations go up, gun stocks spike.
- “Now is not the time to discuss gun control.”
- Wait for the next attack.
And on it goes.
The pattern is as frustrating as it is familiar. Nothing will change though, the polarisation of the media ensures that. They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
We have to change.
It’s time to blame the victims. And by victims, I am, of course, referring to the living. The Americans who live every day in the knowledge that regular occurrences of mass murder are a part of every day life. The Americans of limited outrage, who find murder abhorrent, but cling to gun ownership as a fundamental right, without which they might perish. The Americans who don’t vote, the Americans voting for leaders who refuse to act on gun control, the 90% of Americans in support of universal background checks who allowed Trump to be elected and have handed control of both Congressional houses to the GOP.
America is bringing this violence on itself. Some realised this after the 2012 massacre of 20 kindergarten students in Sandy Hook. When the Republican-controlled Congress refused to act in any way to prevent babies – out of the womb – from being murdered in their classrooms, the debate should have ended. No one should have accepted that choice, and yet in 2014 and 2016, voters decided that they hated a black President and a female Secretary of State more than they cared about the lives of innocent American children.
Every opportunity they have to do something to prevent further violence is avoided.
Congress has even banned the researching of gun violence by the CDC. In 1996, a provision was inserted into a spending bill as a result of intense NRA lobbying to reduce the impact of a 1993 study that showed that keeping guns in the home increased the risk of a homicide in the home. Known as the Dickey Amendment, it mandated:
“…none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may be used to advocate or promote gun control.”
The result of this has been that attempts to study gun violence and its causes have been severely hampered; leading to wild theories, junk science, and countless graphs being perpetuated by the media claiming to explain what causes these shootings to take place.
How long will it be until someone blames the 2014 film Kingsman for inspiring the shooter? The scene in question has all the ingredients for the making of a moral panic, not dissimilar to the media meltdown after the Columbine shooting. That used to be the answer, when mass shootings only happened every few years, blame violence in film, video games and music. Now blame tends to be the domain of evangelical preachers, claiming the violence is the result of a nation turning away from God, or disrespecting Trump.
Media discourse has fallen apart. In the rush to be first, the reporting of facts has fallen by the wayside. During the early confusion of the Vegas shooting, when it was still considered an active shooter situation, social media was running wild with reports of multiple shooters, which the news picked up claiming they’d “received reports”.
Before the police had identified the gunman in Sutherland Springs, a Congressman had claimed his name was “Sam Hyde” on live TV, the result of a popular 4chan hoax.
In some ways, this could be seen as an abusive relationship – Americans trapped in a cycle of violence without a way to get out. Except, they can easily break the cycle. Every two years they have the opportunity to act on this, and yet they continue to elect puppets willingly manipulated by the NRA to Congress, state legislatures and their city councils.
This isn’t a bad relationship, it’s bad management. Politicians and elected officials are civil servants, supposed to work to the benefit of those who put them there. They’re supposed to be representative of the wishes of the electorate, and yet, they tend to represent those with the deepest pockets. If a business filled its ranks with employees who refuse to do their jobs, that business would be expected to replace those ineffective workers with those more capable, or collapse.
And it isn’t hard to argue that America is headed towards collapse.
What is the solution? Is it cold-hearted to blame victims? WHEN is the time to talk about gun control?
It may turn out to be that being cold towards victims is what America needs. A tough love approach. As long as mass shootings are a regular occurrence with no solutions, Americans are bringing this violence upon themselves, to the point that it could be said that they want mass shootings to take place, because it gives them something to unite over; the grief, the loss, the suffering, helping to create an image of victimhood.
There’s no point in pretending that Americans are victims here. They’ve had countless opportunities to enact serious legislation, or any legislation to address this crisis, and have chosen, time and again, to offer hollow and pointless gestures.
American citizens deserve the mass shootings they are (barely) living with. It’s okay to not feel sorry for them, when they keep bringing this on themselves.
Lists were published today of “Notable Deadly Shootings at Churches in Recent Years“. The fact that such a list exists speaks volumes. The US has so many mass shootings, that the media is forced to offer subcategories to help citizens understand them all. Some have pointed out the dark irony of offering hopes and prayers when the shooting happened in a church.
Ultimately though, the apathy of Americans is what will perpetuate this for the foreseeable future. They are:
- Choosing to elect officials that they KNOW with absolute certainty will refuse to act because doing nothing is profitable.
- Failing to organise rallies against gun violence. Americans marched on Washington against Donald Trump, they knitted hats and rallied outside Trump Tower, but have done nothing of the sort in the wake of mass murder.
- Avoiding subversive actions. Bernie Sanders supporters joined the Democratic Party en masse to try to get him elected during the primaries, but none have joined the NRA to try to overthrow its leadership.
The lack of empathy many Americans seem to have for their fellow citizens means that it isn’t wrong to blame Americans for this continued violence, and as long as they don’t care, neither should we.