Last week saw yet another school shooting in the United States. It has led to the now predictable and oft-repeated reactions on all sides.
The public and politicians alike offer prayers, condolences and, frankly, precious little else in the way of concrete plans of action.
Highlighted are the always-poignant stories of isolated acts of sacrifice and heroism amongst the victims. And then life returns to what passes for normal.
And we wait for the next inevitable mass murder to come.
The significant portion of the American public that will not consider any restrictions on firearms ownership insists that such tragedies are not the fault of responsible gun owners. They say they should therefore not see their freedom to purchase, own and carry firearms curtailed in any way, shape or form.
It’s about gun safety, not gun control, they assert. A handful of them always sputter that had there been more guns on hand, then some Good Samaritan with good aim could have taken out the shooter and prevented the body count from climbing.
Their position on guns is inflexible, calcified and anyone counting on it to change is in for a long and frustrating wait that will ultimately prove futile.
Naturally, proponents of gun control see the situation quite differently. They question why anyone would want or need an assault rifle like the AR-15 that Nikolas Cruz legally purchased and then allegedly used to kill 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., last Wednesday.
The answers are everywhere – and nowhere. Arm the teachers! Arm the students! Place armed guards at every entrance of every school! Use metal detectors! Take away guns!
None of these solutions are realistic, workable or even desirable. When I think back on some of my teachers, let’s just say I wouldn’t have wanted many of them to be packing heat, nor would I have wanted to send my children into the equivalent of a military compound every day of their school lives.
In the wake of the latest massacre, there’s a growing contingency of people who try to deflect any debate on guns by highlighting the undeniable mental health component at play in all of these instances. This approach was favoured by President Donald Trump who – what else? – tweeted his position and plea:
“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 president has actually hit on something worth considering – even if his motivation was to avoid becoming mired in a debate on guns and risk alienating millions of Americans across the political spectrum. It might come as a shock that yes, many liberals also proudly tote guns on their hips or place them in the drawer of the nightstand for easy reach.
I’ve lived in the United States long enough to realize that this country loves and adores its firearms. I don’t believe any significant gun control legislation is probable or that it would even be effective in preventing these acts of violence.
Perhaps a societal shift is needed before there can be any change. Perhaps like every other evolving cultural norm, what can be hoped for is a collective rejection of the very idea of guns instead of the presence of guns themselves.
Think of it this way: It’s stunning that American society is such that someone with a pack of cigarettes sticking out of their shirt pocket would be judged more harshly, be made less welcome and be considered more repulsive to some than a person with a handgun tucked inside their belt.
It’s not laws that need to be changed or enacted. Those do nothing if there’s not an underlying social reality that they reflect. Until we reach a tipping point where enough Americans begin to reconsider their love affair with weapons, then there will be more and more of these school shootings.
The only thing we don’t know is when and where.
Troy Media columnist Gavin MacFadyen is a Canada-raised, U.S.-based writer. Blending insight and wit, he brings a unique perspective to the issues of the day.
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