Americans don’t want to admit it. But we are used to this now.
Our children have learned to use language like “active shooter,” and a classmate, who was a hero on the football team, can suddenly turn into a “gunman.”
Americans compare the latest school shooting to the most recent one that made headlines. This is how we process. The tragedy in Santa Fe, Texas, which appears to include guns and bombs, is just “the worst since February.” Earlier this year students in Santa Fe had walked out in support of the “Never Again” campaign launched by survivors of the high school massacre in Parkland, Florida.
Is there an emerging pathology to how this all works? How did we get to where it was accepted?
Ask a parent who lost a child if we need to do something about the culture of the gun.
The only solution offered by elected officials, from the President to the governor of Texas to the state’s two US senators is to offer the usual ration of “thoughts and prayers.” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott recently told the NRA convention in Dallas that “the problem is not guns, it’s hearts without God.”
Texas politicians never blame easy access to guns, and the best they can do is symbolic, which is why Abbott ordered Texas flags to half-staff.
President Donald Trump said this has “gone on too long in America,” and he will do everything he can to protect our children. We may be assured that does not include stricter gun control measures, just another TV moment or a Tweet offering thoughts and prayers. Because buying a gun is quite easy but tracking the purchaser or checking their backgrounds isn’t simple.
The Santa Fe suspect reportedly did not appear in the Texas system that records gun buyers because he appears to have used his father’s legally owned guns. How do we stop that?
Thoughts and prayers that maybe we can create a system that works?
The shooter at Sutherland Springs, Texas, had slipped through a military tracking system, and that digital failure ruined dozens of lives connected to the people he killed. Texas US Sen. John Cornyn, not known for his political courage on controversial issues like gun control, pushed a national background records checking law through the upper chamber, but maybe that was because he knew that House Speaker Paul Ryan was not likely to allow the House to vote on the measure and send it to the President.
Thoughts and prayers this Santa Fe tragedy will change Ryan’s mind?
Until the Virginia Tech campus slaughter in 2007, the worst mass gun killing in American history was the Luby’s massacre in Killeen, Texas. George, “Jo Jo,” Hennard drove his pickup through the front of a Luby’s cafeteria, got out and systematically shot and killed 23 people. Two of the dead were the parents of Suzanna Hupp, who said she had left her personal firearm in the glove box of her car outside.
She campaigned for a seat in the Texas state legislature, and won, by promoting a concealed carry weapons bill, which was signed into law by future President and then-Gov. George W. Bush.
If the law actually put guns into the hands of the good guys, they still don’t appear to be where they need to be — when they need to be there. Rhetoric around ending the gun crisis in America always revolves around ideas that have nothing to do with controlling access to weapons. The solution is always to increase security at our schools and our airports and restaurants and hotels and homes. Next time Grandma and Grandpa come to visit make sure they clear the electronic screening arch on the front porch.
Texas was won by the gun. The persecuted immigrants from Europe and the disenchanted Easterners moved up into the limestone hills and out on the plains and built their cabins and lean-tos and had nothing but rifles and pistols to protect them from depredations by the indigenous peoples they were displacing.
The Texas Rangers enforced the Anglo version of the law by wearing a wide silver badge, and “the big iron on their hip.” Sometimes even private disputes were settled at the end of a gun barrel.
And guns are still as much a part of Texas as enchiladas verde, beer, barbecue, and football. The state now has an open-carry law, and it is not uncommon to walk into a department store and see a daddy packing a pistol on his hip while he shops with the wife and the kids for a new big screen TV or tires for his pickup.
Texas, like the rest of the nation, may be too far gone to turn away from where guns have taken us. We might have unconsciously resolved to live with recurrent tragedies caused by easy availability of guns to almost anyone, regardless of their mental stability or disturbing past.
Thoughts and prayers that isn’t true.
James C. Moore is a business consultant and principal at Big Bend Strategies, a business development firm.