In President Donald Trump’s message to the nation Monday, after horrific mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, he blamed mental illness, the internet, video games and just about everything except the guns. After initial comments hinting he might finally push back against the Republican Party’s intractable attitude that the saturation of firearms in America is an act of providence about which nothing can be done, all he did was reinforce it.
Let this stand as the loudest warning yet that, as long as the GOP holds power over the national policy (or lack thereof) on guns, many more will die.
A gunman killed 20 people in an El Paso Walmart Saturday morning; two more victims died of their injuries Monday. A suspect is in custody. Just 15 hours after the Texas rampage, another gunman opened fire in a Dayton, Ohio, nightlife district. He needed only 32 seconds to kill nine people before police killed him.
Both assailants wielded semi-automatic, military-style rifles purchased legally — a sentence that, in itself, explains why the U.S. stands alone among advanced nations in facing this parade of carnage week after week after week.
Trump initially seemed to stray, if vaguely, from the stubborn do-nothing orthodoxy of his adopted party regarding gun violence, telling reporters, “We’re going to take care of it.” Later, he tweeted that he might support “strong background checks” — but added, outrageously, the suggestion of “marrying this legislation with desperately needed immigration reform.”
Immigrants aren’t the common denominator in America’s gun-violence epidemic — guns are. Both recent shooters are apparently native-born, and the El Paso shooter may have been motivated by the very kind of anti-immigrant bigotry that Trump himself personally expresses at every opportunity.
As for “strong background checks,” the Democrat-controlled House this year voted for exactly that, with a measure to require universal background checks for gun sales and close the private-sale loophole that most Americans oppose but the gun industry covets. The Republican-controlled Senate has refused to take up the measure, and Trump has vowed to veto it if such a measure ever gets to his desk.
By the time Trump gave his diversionary, weak address to the nation Monday, he had abandoned all talk of background checks or other reasonable gun control, and obediently parroted the GOP’s usual red herrings about mental illness, video-game culture and the rest. His one valid point — condemnation of “racism, bigotry and white supremacy” — was irretrievably negated by his own central role in the spread of those cancers.
Trump isn’t a standard Republican politician in some respects, but on guns, he ultimately is. And that means the blood will continue flowing until voters finally end it by removing politicians, including Trump, who allow the gun lobby to drown out the voices of outrage demanding action against America’s gun sickness.