When some American (almost always) man (even more almost always) takes a gun and shoots and kills a large number of strangers, there are several ways we can react. We can ignore it entirely, which is how we tend to address the vast majority of mass shootings that take place almost daily now. Or we can try to make sense of it, and consider how deaths like these could be avoided in the future:
- We could note that assault weapons, including the AR-15 semiautomatic rifle used yesterday in Parkland, Florida, were banned in the U.S. from 1994 until 2004, and the U.S. Senate considered outlawing them again after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, but sixty Senators voted against it. We’ve done that already.
- Or we could note that there are often plenty of warning signs about school shooters, with the teenager now under arrest in Parkland having a long record of obsession with guns, stalking female classmates, and killing animals, which could be addressed not just by better mental health programs but particularly by creating strong movements to prevent domestic violence against women. We’ve done that, too.
- Or we could note that conservatives tend to respond to every mass shooting by blaming Muslims and undocumented immigrants even when there’s no evidence for this, or else offering generic “thoughts and prayers” to avoid thinking about how their own policies may have contributed to this latest massacre. Done and done.
- Or we could throw up our hands and complain about how hard it is to do anything at all, because American men like shooting guns and in a free country how’re you going to stop them from shooting them at people sometimes, but the Los Angeles Times op-ed page has that covered, so thankfully we don’t have to.
Or we could just cry, a lot. Which doesn’t help solve America’s sickness of male mass gun violence, but then writing about all the ways our nation could begin to fix it but refuses to doesn’t seem to have done much either. There’s always hope that one more essay, one more impassioned argument, will begin to turn that tide. But until then, there’s nothing to do but mourn, not just for the latest round of dead children and grieving families, but for a nation that has apparently decided that this is fine.