It’s not unusual for Donald Trump to distort the truth. Hypocrisy and outright falsehoods have been a hallmark of his administration. His response to the Texas massacre on Sunday — “This isn’t a guns situation” — rang familiar bells, but for once he was telling someone else’s lies: the National Rifle Association’s.
To suggest that a mass shooting – the 307th of 2017 alone, according to the Gun Violence Archive – has nothing to do with guns is the kind of obfuscation and outright lies the NRA has been telling for years, to the receptive audience of members of Congress.
“There are enough gun laws.”
“If everyone were armed, these mass shootings wouldn’t happen.”
“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”
Yes, this is a “gun situation.” And no, it is not too soon to talk about how to stop the carnage.
Assault weapons: Semiautomatic assault weapons are at the heart of mass shootings like Texas. And Las Vegas. And Orlando. And Newtown. Why are these killing machines available? Imagine flooding the market with trucks that can reach speeds of up to 400 mph and don’t have headlights. Crowds will be mowed down. Yet every attempt to renew or impose a ban on such guns fails. Banning high capacity magazines is also a nonstarter. Every argument against these bans is a lie.
Mental health: Trump’s claim that “this is a deranged individual” is another deflection from the truth, and from confronting the reality of gun availability. This is not a mental health issue at the highest level. It is the ease with which anyone, including disturbed people, can stockpile a deadly arsenal.
Trump has no right to blame mental health for Texas when, earlier this year, he approved the elimination of a rule that would have reduced the number of mentally ill from getting their hands on guns. The Obama-era rule would have expanded the national background gun check database to include people getting Social Security checks for mental illnesses and people deemed unfit to handle their own financial affairs.
The true mental illness we should be talking about is the collective lack of concern for human life. We allow a minority of society to choose guns over life. At the end of the day, thoughts and prayers in the face of slaughtered innocents are what sociopaths offer, not healthy human beings.
Registration: We tiptoe around the most mild rebukes and regulation of deadly weapons. Cars are registered. Guns should be, too. Yet laws vary from state to state. Two states require registration of all firearms. Eight states prohibit registration, including Pennsylvania.
While consistent laws should be a goal, progress can be made at the local level. For example, in Pennsylvania we should fight to close the private purchase loophole for long guns, enact a statewide lost and stolen reporting requirement for gun owners, and push for an emergency risk protection order that could allow family members to get the courts to confiscate the weapons of a person in mental or emotional crisis.
And let’s recognize that maybe the exhaustion we feel after each mass shooting is not from the deaths, but from the lies we have to listen to once again. We should demand the truth.