The Florida shooter didn’t act alone. He was aided by a president, a Congress and a culture that repeatedly favors protecting a gun lobby over the rights of our children—that is, the rights they have to make it home from school everyday alive. Is it too heavy-handed, too crass to lay the deaths of 17 high schoolers at President Donald Trump’s feet? Maybe, but consider the following.
The president wants to spend $30 million of taxpayer money on a military parade—the sad display reserved for little rocket men and other unstable dictators—yet Trump’s recent budget has cut more than $10 million from maintaining or improving background checks that bar criminals from buying guns, including those convicted of domestic assault. (Instances of domestic violence involving guns are 12 times more likely to be deadly.)
There is a reason I mention domestic violence alongside gun violence and crazy requests for military parades: They are all expressions of toxic masculinity. An alleged abuser himself, Trump represents toxic masculinity, and toxic masculinity, like shit, rolls downhill.
It is, after all, morally bankrupt leaders like Trump and the craven GOP in concert with the money-grubbers at the NRA who are responsible for preventable deaths by firearm. It is the NRA’s deep pockets of blood money that ensure no gun control measures are enacted or even introduced at federal or state levels.
After Sandy Hook, I gave up on the idea that conversations about reasonable gun control could be had with anyone who believed the Second Amendment was under siege and a black president was coming for your guns.
Trump personifies America’s toxic masculinity problem—the out-of-control need for control that manifests through pathetic acts like calling for a military parade or amassing a small arsenal of guns in your basement. One of my favorite pieces of NRA/GOP-sponsored legislation is called The Hearing Protection Act of 2017. If you had one guess as to what that bill was about, what would it be? You’re probably right. The bill makes gun silencers legal. It also changes tax code to remove a $200 transfer tax levied on silencers. And, if you bought a silencer pre-2015, you are in luck; this bill provides for a refund of the pesky $200 fee you paid.
All you need to know about the NRA-owned GOP is wrapped up in this bill—from the ridiculous joke of a title to the removal of a reasonable tax on a gun accessory no one needs. Any deception necessary to make owning guns easier is the NRA’s motto, no matter how many people die.
I remember when news broke about the mass shooting at Columbine. The idea of a mass shooting at a high school was still a foreign concept in the country at the time. I sat in my living room watching the news coverage, shaking my head in disbelief. Seeing kids walk out of that high school crying, hands up or on their heads to show they were unarmed. It was utterly surreal.
More than a decade later, I remember being stricken along with the rest of the country when the news came out of Sandy Hook. Surely something would change after that, I thought. What kind of monsters could watch the families of murdered kindergartners suffering and do nothing about gun control? Politicians and lobbyists would see change was needed.
Man, was I fucking wrong. After Sandy Hook, I gave up on the idea that conversations about reasonable gun control could be had with anyone who believed the Second Amendment was under siege and a black president was coming for your guns.
I have written about guns for years now, and I readily admit I really love target shooting. I have reported on how easy it is to buy a gun off someone at a gun show—no background check needed. I have modified an AR-15 (the gun of choice for mass shooters in the U.S.) with a slide fire in under three minutes and taken it out to the range to shoot it off. “Slide fire” or “bump stocks” you may recall are the handy pieces of plastic ware that turn a semi-auto into a de facto machine gun capable of shooting an uninterrupted spray of bullets. You know, like the one the Vegas shooter used to kill 58 people in roughly 10 minutes.
People compare mass shootings in the United States to that of other wealthy nations. The statistics are clear and have remain unchanged for years. The U.S. is the only place mass shootings happen regularly. Those facts are indisputable. And as far as gun ownership, Americans own more guns than literally any other country on the planet.
I just returned from a reporting trip to Cambodia. I met a handful of fellow reporters from around the world. As the lone American in the group I prepared myself for the inevitable Trump discussion. There were questions like ‘what the hell was America thinking electing that embarrassing, dangerous clod?’ But it was an Australian and an Irish reporter who nailed it. They said—almost simultaneously—the one thing they cannot figure out about America, aside from Trump, is our truly pathological love of guns. All I could do was nod.