Fatal inaction as the US fails to protect its schools

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“AGAIN” was the headline of The Dallas Morning on 25th May 2022.

There have been 145 days of 2022 as of May 25th. In those 145 days, there have been 212 mass shootings in the United States. 27 of those 145 days have seen shootings at a school. That puts 2022 slightly behind 2021’s pace, which with 693 in the year would equate to 275 shootings as of May 25th, 2021. Since 2009, the US has had 57 times more school shootings than the other six G7 countries combined.

But the fact that there is even a discussion or comparison about the rate is absurd. More important are the 19 schoolchildren and two teachers killed in a primary school in Uvalde, Texas this week.

In those 145 days, there have been 212 mass shootings

These numbers are not unfamiliar. Neither is the reaction from the media and the thoughts and the prayers given to the families. Neither is the rhetoric issued by the politicians. Ted Cruz, a Republican senator from Texas, the state of the shooting: “you see politicians try to politicise it. You see Democrats… whose immediate solution is to try to restrict the rights of law-abiding citizens”. On the other hand is Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut: “I am on this floor to beg… to get down on my hands and knees and beg my colleagues… What are we doing? Why are you here? If not to solve a problem as existential as this?”

Before Chris Murphy became a senator, he was the Member of Congress for the district in which the Sandy Hook shooting occurred in 2012. At Sandy Hook, another elementary school, 20 young students and six staff were killed — the deadliest school shooting in American history. But, 10 years on and with Murphy’s judgement of “another Sandy Hook” in the bloody history book, nothing has changed. Cruz’s dismissal of an “immediate solution”, on the other hand, comes on the back of his $300,000+ of campaign donations from pro-gun lobbyists, the highest figure in the country.

The gun issue encapsulates the US political system’s faults and deep ideological entrenchment. The Citizens United Supreme Court decision in 2010 made it legal for corporations, individuals and trade organisations such as the NRA (National Rifle Association, the major pro-gun organisation in the US) to make limitless donations to political campaigns and even to directly influence legislation. The result: $171.9m in lobbying to directly block gun control legislation from 1998 to 2020 and $155.1m from 2010 to 2020 on “outside spending” to support pro-gun candidates. ‘Vulnerable’ candidate Martha McSally received over $516,000 in 2020. Gun-control advocacy groups, on the other hand, spent only $2.9m in 2021 on lobbying. These shootings have been bought by companies who profit from keeping guns easy and free to access.

There seems to be no argument which will sway those who want to keep their guns

The gun issue is also typical of the arrogance of politics in America: that, despite overwhelming evidence, my right to a gun is more important than your child; that my “prayers” are the band-aid that your wound needs; my worldview is strong, and you cannot take my piece of my America away. One ironic image shared on social media, in a style stereotypical of a conservative Facebook post, summarised it succinctly: “Let’s take a moment to honor the sacrifice of our brave schoolchildren who lay down their lives to protect our right to bear arms.” Indeed, after the Columbine High School shooting in 1999 (where 12 high school students and one teacher were murdered), the then-leader of the NRA Charlton Heston responded by holding a rifle over his head and telling gun control advocates they would have to take it “from my cold, dead hands”.

Nothing much more can be said about the mass shootings in America. There seems to be no argument which will sway those who want to keep their guns. Not the mass murder of children, nor the 211 other mass shootings which have happened in the first 145 days of this year. Instead there is simply anger, weariness, sadness, thoughts and prayers and thoughts and prayers.

Image: Jay Rembert via Unsplash

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