Of course guns have nothing to do with it. Nothing to do with the 22 people massacred at the El Paso Walmart and the 10 killed in Dayton’s entertainment district the next night, the eight killed in two mass shootings less than a week earlier at a garlic festival in California and in Wisconsin. Nothing to do with the five killed at the Yakama Indian reservation in June. Guns have nothing whatsoever to do with the nearly 300 people killed and more than 1,000 injured in mass shootings so far this year, the 10, 20, 30 or 40 soon to be killed in the next unlucky town yet to become subject of our next moment of shared grief that’ll make zero difference, though let’s not kid ourselves: luck has nothing to do with it either.
Just before opening fire, Patrick Crusius, the El Paso shooter, posted a white supremacist manifesto online in support of Brenton Tarrant, the New Zealand shooter who murdered 50 people at two mosques earlier this year. Thankfully, Connor Betts, the Dayton killer, may have liked Elizabeth Warren and even been a Democrat. That sent the Fox crowd in a frenzy of celebration. They had themselves a left-wing shooter. So there you have it: we have no white nationalist terrorist problem in America. It’s really more those antifa people we should be worried about (and what slacker generation in its right mind would want to combat fascism), it’s Black Lives Matter, it’s all those damn liberals who see a racist behind every MAGA-head. And obviously Connor Betts’s obsession with guns and violence, his easy access to assault weapons and a 100-round drum magazine that enabled him to murder and maim more than two dozen people in 30 seconds, including his sister, is not the problem. It’s his voter registration card that’s the problem. Maybe it’s Elizabeth Warren’s fault.
But above all, let’s be sure to remember, please, that guns have nothing to do with it.
Two years ago a pair of New York Times analysts graphed the outlying status of the United States, showing how no other nation comes close to America’s frequency of mass shootings. We have less than 4 percent of the world’s population but we account for a third of mass shooters worldwide. We’re not exactly crazier than others. Every country has its mental health problems, and anyway enough studies show that mental health is not nearly as much a contributor in shootings as we’d like to think. Every country has its racial problems, its issues with violence, its issues with poverty. We’re not that special. But we are special in one, undeniable regard. We have 300 million guns. “The only variable that can explain the high rate of mass shootings in America is its astronomical number of guns,” the analysts concluded. The only other country that comes close to our rate of mass shootings is Yemen, a country at war, and it has the second-highest rate of gun ownership in the world, after the United States.
But again, guns have nothing to do with it. All those gun owners of ours are law abiding after all, all of them but those who slip through every year and, so far this year, account for 9,000 gun deaths and nearly 18,000 injuries, including 400 children. Guns were the weapon behind every single one of those deaths and injuries, but of course, guns had nothing to do with it.
The deadliness of mass shootings has paralleled the intensification of global warming, with this first fifth of the 21st century accounting for 13 of the hottest years on record and 17 of the bloodiest mass shootings. Two of the top 10 are in our own gunshine state (the Pulse and Parkland massacres, 67 dead between them), where let’s not forget, the president endorsed the shooting of migrants (“That’s only in the Panhandle you can get away with that kind of statement,” he said in response to the proposal that they should be shot).
I’m not suggesting a link between global warming and mass shootings. Not yet, anyway, except in one glaring regard: Just as global warming deniers cling to rationales that have been debunked as certainly as Mencken’s bathtub hoax, gun-related deniers, who tend to share the same congregations and preachers and hollowed liturgies, cling to delusional fantasies and the sort of analogies that have the ring of logic, at least for the time it takes to burp a tweet, until an iota’s reflection demolishes the fallacy: Jihadists are the problems? Not by a long shot: the overwhelming majority of mass shooters are Americans, at least a third of them white-nationalist terrorists. Assault weapons aren’t the issue? More than half the mass shooters since 1982 used assault weapons or high-capacity magazines.
Vehicles kill more people than guns, so we should ban vehicles? Falls kill 13,000 people a year, so we should ban ladders? Seems to follow, but the last time we heard of a vehicle being used as a weapon was what, when white supremacist James Fields murdered Heather Heyer and injured 30 people in Charlottesville in 2017? Even drunk drivers who get behind the wheel don’t intend to use their cylinders as bullets. When they do, the toll is usually less than massive. By all means though knock yourself out on gotcha exceptions (the arsonists, the hijackers, the fertilizer terrorists). And when a mass killer learns to use a ladder intentionally to mow people down–or when roofers begin their day scheduling their funeral–let me know.
The problem with all those absurd analogies, which will nevertheless populate the comment section with reliable ferocity, is that they seek to cloak all responsibilities for gun violence on intent, as if lax laws, absent controls, the massive amount of guns in circulation and the lethal link between proximity, capacity and consequence had nothing to do with it. As if a magazine that enables the spraying of 100 bullets in less than a minute is comparable, even in the admirable logic of the most motivated NRA mercenary, to a baseball bat, a knife, or even a Glock.
Maybe guns are more regulated than toys. Clearly, they’re exacting a toll a bit more disturbing, so they could bear a bit more regulating, especially from a Congress that hasn’t passed a gun-safety law in over two decades. But a more effective background check system means the government wants to take all your guns away. A ban on high-capacity magazines means the government wants to take all your guns away. A more effective licensing system means the government wants to take all your guns away. More effective laws against irresponsible gun owners or dealers who enable the theft of nearly 250,000 firearms a year means the government wants to take all your guns away. (Congress doesn’t pass gun-control laws, but in 2003 it passed a law prohibiting the ATF from requiring gun dealers to take inventories.)
Because of course, guns have nothing to do with it. Video games, the internet and “evil”–those things the rest of the world has no access to, no knowledge of, no capacity for–are the problem. The absence of prayer in schools is the problem. Sunspots, smart-meters, Agenda 21, transgenders in the military, food stamp loafers and Hillary’s emails are the problem. And Mexican rapists. Let’s not forget Mexican rapists. Or any Mexicans really.
After the Parkland massacre in Florida, the governor appointed a commission to study what went wrong. But nine of its 16 members were prosecutors or law enforcement, including its chair and vice chair. The fix was in from the start. Everyone and everything would be blamed–not enough cops, not enough guts to go in and confront a shooter, not enough counseling, not enough hardening, not enough attention to the red flags Nikolas Cruz sent up and of course not enough thoughts and prayers. Everything could and was blamed but our infatuation with guns. A grand jury is still sending out subpoenas to every school district, Flagler included, for safety protocols and other cosmetics of a state projecting he-man toughness on security in what are still among our most secure public places, while millions of guns and their gun owners, legal or not, mentally competent or not, backgrounded or not, can go about enjoying their immunity from so much as a sideway glance from any regulatory agency not hailing them as heroes, Minutemen of the Second Amendment, untouchable, infallible.
We’re making fortresses of our schools, businesses and government offices, we now look over our shoulder in public places, genuinely in fear that we could be next. But heaven forbid anyone should mention sensible gun control of any kind, because guns, as we all know, as we must concede and pledge as red-blooded—and not yet bleeding–Americans, have nothing, absolutely nothing to do with it.