Our mass shootings follow a script.
It starts with a madman, of which, sadly, we seem to have no shortage, armed with legally (or illegally) acquired firepower.
This person opens up on innocents at school, church, a movie theater, a nightclub or a concert, causing carnage and shattering families, cutting another hole in the national psyche.
We recoil in horror. We think, oh, not again. We maybe wonder what’s wrong with our country.
Then, from our leaders, there’s a litany of thoughts and prayers, the lowering of flags, the moments of silence.
Then we get ritualistic responses from politicians, varying according to their ideology, constituency, or their place in the election cycle.
Usually, not always, Republicans stress prayer, Democrats stress action.
So it is with Vegas.
Republican U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, a candidate to oppose Democratic Sen. Bob Casey next year: “My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and families of those affected by the horrific shooting in Las Vegas.”
Casey: “While we pray for the victims of this horrific attack and their families, it’s not sufficient to just offer thoughts and prayers. The nation’s security continues to be at risk because Congress refuses to take real, meaningful action to curb gun violence.”
Politics never takes a day off.
There’s also those submerged in the religious right who tend to blame bad things – hurricanes, floods, mass shootings – on us: for legalized gay marriage or legal abortion or any other real or imagined offense against a deity presumably seen as more vengeful than forgiving.
TV evangelist Pat Robertson, for instance, blames mass murder in Vegas on disrespect for President Trump, protests during the national anthem, and the country’s lack of a “vision of God.”
(Robertson, in 1988, was a GOP primary candidate for president.)
What, if anything, to do about mass shootings, then takes up lots of media air and space.
Calls come for, among other things, stricter gun laws, tighter control over high-capacity ammo magazines, and money to research gun violence as an issue of public health.
This, of course, won’t happen. If it didn’t happen after the 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut that killed 20 children and six adults, it won’t happen now.
But it will unleash the unofficial spokesmen for a country of 300 million-plus people and 300 million-plus guns to argue nothing can prevent tragedies such as the one in Vegas or at Sandy Hook, laws don’t stop illegal actions; in essence, if you outlaw guns only outlaws have guns.
This ignores data showing states with strict gun laws, such as New Jersey and Massachusetts, have lower rates of gun-related deaths than gun-friendly states such as Pennsylvania.
But those data are from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which last year partnered with former Democratic U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, a victim of gun violence, so it’ll be viewed as skewed data, “fake news.”
Now, because of Vegas, calls for gun control are temporarily louder. And congressional efforts to further appeal to gun enthusiasts, including legislation making it easier to buy gun silencers, are quieting down.
But that won’t last. We’re headed into a congressional and legislative reelection year. Expect a quick return to normalcy. Expect those seeking any change to be labeled “snowflakes” on what the Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Henninger once called “the mosquito cloud of social media.”
Expect, in Pennsylvania, a continued push to expand gun rights, to deter and punish cities, such as Philadelphia, trying to deal with guns on their own.
Expect the usual campaign mantra: The Second Amendment must be protected because any effort to reduce gun violence is an effort to take it away.
And, mostly, expect our politicians to act out their post-mass-shooting parts, playing to their separate gerrymandered constituencies. For to do otherwise, to act in the interest and safety of all Americans rather than only those who vote for them requires courage and common sense; and that’s not in the script.