Anything but the guns
After the Nashville school shooting, Republicans looked anywhere and everywhere for the cause of this terrible tragedy—except, once again, at the most obvious answer.
How many children have to die, and how many parents have to cry? After the school shooting in Nashville, it’s once again clear there isn’t a number. Republicans claimed it was premature to discuss gun control legislation in the aftermath of the shooting, which is of course their way of saying they won’t do anything, and we can’t make them. So, right-wing influencers across social media all the way up to Fox News looked for other ways to direct their followers anger at this senseless loss of life. Much of their rage was targeted at the trans community, whom the right attempted to paint as a terrorist movement somehow indoctrinating its adherents to kill. I considered writing this piece to explain the various ways their anger manifested—who they demonized, why they demonized them, what made their audience believe these portrayals. Then I thought better of it. The usual right-wing tactics were deployed in the usual way. Pick a reason why. Perhaps the simplest is that demonizing trans people costs the right nothing. Their base either cheers on as they do so, or shrugs and goes about their day. No gun sales are lost. No NRA political donations were harmed by claiming the Antifa Super Soldiers are teaming up with the “trans terrorists” to commit mass violence against America’s schools. White Christians aren’t under siege, no matter how much the fleeing fascist wannabe Josh Hawley wants you believe they are. It’s all absurd, but the emotions triggered in us by the needless deaths of children have to go somewhere. Many cried. Others raged. Narratives came and went, distracting attention until the narrative shifted the moment Donald Trump’s indictment was announced.
There will be another mass shooting, and we’ll have to endure these ghouls and their lack of interest in solutions, their harmful rhetoric, the lies they tell while worrying—as the rest of us do—that gun violence will come for them and theirs. It doesn’t matter how many guns you have or how well you’re trained to use them. One man or one woman can only be in once place at a time, and our children will go out into a dangerous world as we pray for their safe return. More lives will be needlessly lost because enough people won’t simply say the words. It’s the guns. They’re dying because of the guns. There are too many guns on the street. There are too many AR-15s or other weapons of war in America. They’re too easy to obtain and far too difficult to take away. This has to change. This can be reformed. This problem won’t go away until those fundamental truths are addressed. You can blame MSNBC, George Soros, trans people, open doors, mental health problems and Woke teachers. I can’t stop you, but blaming any of those issues or people won’t change anything because none of those things are the actual problem. They’re distractions from the real problem—the guns. Enhanced background checks, national red flag laws and assault weapons bans won’t prevent every mass shooting, but they will prevent some. They will make some less deadly. Isn’t that worth doing? Seat belts save some lives. Do we really think they weren’t worth putting in cars because they don’t save all lives?
Schools have to beg for donations to get enough construction paper, scissors and pencils for every classroom. Children go hungry because some parents are unable to pay their cafeteria bills, and Republicans like Ben Shapiro openly mock the solution of … feeding more children. Teachers are barely paid a living wage. Some quit after they get pregnant because it’s cheaper to stay at home than it is to continue teaching and pay for childcare. There’s apparently no money to address these issues, but Republicans will find the money to arm every teacher, every member of the office staff, cafeteria worker and custodian working on school grounds. Arming every potential good guy with a gun is the only answer, they’ll keep telling us. Never mind that weapons mishandled by inexperienced firearms users will lead to errant bullets and more dead staff and students. One study found that only 46% of gun owners in the United States properly store their firearms. What do we expect the number to be among teachers who forced to carry at school against their will? There will be misuse of misplaced guns. Children will find them in their teacher’s purse or drawer, and a bullet will be fired in error, wounding or killing one or more. This will happen once or a hundred times, and it will be infrequent enough for the right to once again shrug and offer up more thoughts and prayers.
Even if you ignore the unintentional gun violence that will result from this, there will still be mass shootings because those inexperienced and unwilling gun owners will be armed with handguns while mass murderers continue to enter classrooms with weapons of war and body armor which can still be purchased legally. What chance does an underpaid teacher have against a mass killer wearing Kevlar murdering innocents without concern for any life, including their own?
I, like most Americans, do not call for the improbable or impossible. Whatever your personal feelings, repealing the second amendment and removing every gun from this country is about as likely as armed teachers preventing every school shooting, but we are not helpless. We are made to feel helpless by the ongoing and persistent inaction by Republican lawmakers, but it doesn’t have to be this way forever. Republicans were often said to be one issue voters before the repeal of Roe v. Wade, but I suspect we’re reaching a point where Democrats are single issue voters on the issue of gun control. Aren’t we all tired of this sense of hopelessness in the pit of our stomach? Aren’t we tired of watching our spouses and children crying and knowing there’s nothing we can do about it?
If you believe you’re supposed to hate the trans community because of the Nashville shooting, why don’t you hate white men for committing the majority of mass shooting events since 1966? Why don’t you hate men of every race for committing 98% of all mass shootings in this country since 1966? If the problem was as simple as one gender, one race, one ideology or one specific motivation, the logical victim of our collective scorn would be men and particularly white men. Yet somehow this explanation is viewed as illogical by the same predominantly white male right-wing influencers who convinced their audience that there’s an epidemic of trans terrorists in the world? In reality, the sequence of events that lead individuals to commit mass murder are varied, unpredictable, illogical and complex. The solution is simple. We have to do something about the guns.
The right-wing arguments, claims and solutions do not survive even the tiniest amount of scrutiny, but they don’t really have to. The moment children are gunned down in schools, parents—by the hundreds, thousands and tens of thousands—across this country cry helpless tears. I have friends who cried these tears after the shooting in Nashville. Do you? Don’t most of us? We imagine our own huddling in their classrooms behind a locked door with gunshots echoing as it moves down the adjacent hallway, the sound growing louder—pop, pop, pop—as it bounces off bright walls covered in artwork—tiny hands pressed to paper, dogs and cats and rainbows painted on sheets of paper—children’s names with backwards letters in misshapen sizes at the bottom. Lights off, the door locked, they wait, their teacher’s cheeks wet with tears, reassuring the children with a shaking, unconvincing voice that they’re safe. The room smells of piss and shit. How not? Their teacher begs them to be quiet. She has to restrain a child—made oblivious or delirious by fear—as they run toward the locked classroom door. She covers as many children as possible with her body. The pop, pop, pop moves closer. The sound stops. Then several shots are heard in quick succession. Wood splits and pieces fly through the air, the checkered glass window shatters as bullets fly through the room, above the huddled mass of tiny bodies on the opposite side of the room. There’s screaming now. Blood pools next to piles of red glitter and maroon construction paper. Sirens are heard from the parking lot outside. The children scream. A thud, thud, thud lands on the door as the shooter attempts to push through what’s left of the door. More bullets fly until there’s little more than splinters around the edges to push through.
A figure enters the room.
In an office not far away, a staffer has already started typing the phrase No one could’ve prevented this…