On April 20, 1999, the country stood still in shock when two teens killed 13 people and wounded 20+ more with two shotguns, a 9mm carbine, and a semi-automatic handgun at Columbine High School. On Valentine’s Day 2018, the country barely batted an eye when one teen killed 17 adults and children with an assault rifle in South Florida. The former incident ignited an intense national conversation about gun control; the latter incident inspired a few think pieces and a half-assed tweet from the President of the United States.
And we’re still having that conversation from 19 years ago.
Thanks to the efforts of the NRA and the moral vacuum that is the Republican Party, our country is stuck in an endless cycle of shootings, angry liberal Facebook arguments, thoughts and prayers, inaction from Congress, and more shootings.
And whereas President Obama attempted to pass gun control legislation after Sandy Hook, our current President is instead blaming shooting victims for their own deaths.
In his Twitter response to Wednesday’s Parkland, Florida shooting — which he inexplicably appended to an entirely unrelated tweet about DACA negotiations — Trump wrote:
“So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!”
The problem is that the Florida shooter had been reported to the authorities. Even the FBI was aware of the shooter, thanks to a comment the shooter had left on a Youtube video almost six months ago.
Thus, Trump is refusing to acknowledge the real underlying issue of this tragedy — unrestricted access to gun control — and choosing instead to blame shooting victims while simultaneously stigmatizing the mentally ill.
It’s important to note that one of Trump’s early act as president was to repeal an Obama-era regulation designed to block some mentally ill people from buying guns.
Perhaps Trump is unaware that less than 5% of violent crimes are committed by people suffering from mental illness, and that the mentally ill are more likely to be the victims of gun violence than perpetrators. Or perhaps, he just considers the mentally ill to be a scapegoat for whenever he doesn’t want to admit that the NRA spent tens of millions of dollars getting him elected.
What’s absolutely certain, however, is that Trump’s presidency has allowed toxic masculinity to flourish at an alarming rate — and toxic masculinity can be definitively linked to the fact that most mass shooters are men.
So who, really, should we be blaming right now?