Had you not known it was a school shooting, President Trump’s televised address to the nation would have left you no wiser. In his speech on Thursday (February 15), Mr Trump pledged to “tackle the difficult issue of mental health.” He did not mention gun control.
A Martian visiting Earth on Thursday, a day after 17 people were killed by a young man wielding a semi-assault rifle, would have thought “mental health” was the killer.
The Martian would’ve surmised that “mental health” must be a great and terrible thing, a weapon capable of felling Earthlings at will.
The Martian would not have realised from Mr Trump’s address that the Florida tragedy was the deadliest school shooting in years in the United States. That the only deadlier school shooting was at Sandy Hook in Connecticut in 2012, when a gunman killed 20 first graders and six adults.
President Trump’s uncaring platitudes about “mental health” will not save the lives of America’s children.
Consider the hypocrisy of politicians’ words, deeds and reality:
- Mr Trump went on about “mental health” but early in his presidency, he approved the removal of an Obama-era regulation intended to prevent people with mental disabilities from buying guns. That was a really tiny step towards a safer society (just about 75,000 people in America would’ve been prevented from buying guns). And yet it was an important move. Mr Trump reversed even that.
- In his speech after the Florida shooting, Mr Trump emphasized the need for Americans to report the behavior of “mentally disturbed” people to the authorities. But what could anyone really have said that the police could’ve locked up the Florida gunman Nikolas Cruz? Being faintly depressed and “weird” is hardly a crime and certainly not a signal that you’re planning mass murder.
Mr Trump’s own Attorney-General, Jeff Sessions, has acknowledged the absurdity of proposing mass preventative arrests as a way to stop shootings. While urging law enforcement officers to look for warning signs in their communities, he admitted, “You and I know we cannot arrest everybody that somebody thinks is dangerous”.
And then there is the breast-beating about Nikolas Cruz’s boast on YouTube last year that he would become a “professional school shooter”. The FBI knew he put the note on YouTube but did nothing, could do nothing. What did we expect America’s premier law enforcement agency to do? How many youthful boasts have you heard and read in your life or issued yourself? How many do you know of that result in conviction and imprisonment?
Intent is one thing. The means to carry it out is another. Take away easy access to guns and you’re left with fewer ways to act out “mental health” issues and fantasies of mass murder.
Nothing will be done unless America addresses its gun-sickness.