Here is the safest prediction I will make this or any other year: the massacre in Las Vegas will change nothing.
Every multiple shooting by a gun-toting madman in America unfailingly generates the same tired responses: pious platitudes from the political Right about constitutional freedoms; plaintive calls from the Left for stricter gun controls; newspaper headlines that dominate the front pages for a week before giving way to some other topic that readers find more interesting, or less harrowing.
America’s obsession with guns is by no means a universal phenomenon but there are enough constitutional pedants, hunters and collectors in each state – bar a handful of ‘progressive’ enclaves on both coasts – to ensure that no legislation will pass in either house of Congress. The bald and apparently unalterable fact is that few senators or congressmen, regardless of party, can afford to consider tampering with a right supposedly enshrined in the Second Amendment to the Constitution, or more importantly risk incurring the wrath of the National Rifle Association, which is well endowed with muscle and money, and ready to deploy both to devastating electoral effect.
There is of course no constitutional amendment barring the undermining of the democratic process by so doing.
President Trump can think of no better response than to condemn an ‘utterly evil’ act. To be fair, he has other things on his mind right now. Puerto Rico, for instance, where the victims of Hurricane Maria were given a presidential wigging for putting such a big hole in the federal budget and for bemoaning an event that was nowhere near as serious as Katrina was a few years back. Only sixteen people died in Puerto Rico, he pointed out, while thousands died in Louisiana.
Come to think of it, more people died in Las Vegas than in Puerto Rico. I’m surprised Trump didn’t mention it.
Meanwhile, the Republican leader of the House assumes the grave expression reserved for such occasions and extends his sympathy, on behalf of all Americans, to the victims of such a ‘tragic act’. Some would say that the real tragedy is congressional inaction on the gun issue … but now is not the time to engage in partisan point-scoring. Actually, on this issue, there is never a good time to engage in partisan point-scoring.
Then of course there is the usual sophistry from the Right, long since turned into a slogan, about how it is not guns that kill people but people who kill people. Bad people, of course, or mad people; people who should not be allowed to buy or own guns but whose constitutional rights as American citizens, whether they be bad or mad, must be ‘respected’. Methinks the wielders of the guns may not be much badder or madder than their elected representatives.
Trent Franks, an Arizona congressman, went on television last night to trot out another old chestnut beloved of the gun lobby: how come terrorist acts involving cars or trucks don’t give rise to a call for a ban on cars and trucks? That would indeed be silly. So why, then, pick on guns? The question is so daft as to be unanswerable.
But then Franks vies for the title of the most conservative member of the house, so few viewers would have been surprised, let alone shocked by this mindless nugget. Not from a man who is violently anti-choice – a man who passionately defends the rights of the unborn but dismisses the rights of the living. Needless to say, he is against same-gender marriage as well, and is a climate-change sceptic to boot. In short, he brings the whole package.
In none of these views is he considered a rare breed of duck.
Nor, if truth be told, are the gun lovers. Not really. Deep down, Americans – even, I suspect, gun-hating, life-affirming liberal Americans – hold dear their ‘freedoms’ to the extent that turning a blind eye to the voting records of their elected representatives on gun issues is no mortal sin. And didn’t Barack Obama have impeccable credentials on gun control? What did he do about the problem?
Well nothing. He made no political bones about his views on the issue – but not to the extent of sacrificing his own political bones for it.
So, the bromides and clichés and sanctimonies will soon be packed away and won’t be brought out until the next nutter opens fire on some campus or school or concert hall: somewhere – anywhere will do – in these trigger-happy United States.
Those lacking the patience to wait for the event don’t have to. By the time they read this, more Americans will have died from gunshot wounds than those who fell within the sights of that Las Vegas madman.
And so it goes ….