The heartbreaking stupidity of America’s gun laws | Richard Wolffe


Donald Trump is right. Gun violence is a mental health problem at the highest level, and our leaders need urgent treatment

Another year, another church. Another month, another mass killing. Another day, another political shrug about gun massacres across the United States.

There is still some shock left in this uniquely American series of mass killings. And with that shock, maybe a small glimmer of hope that the silent majority of Americans might demand something more than prayers from their lawmakers.

Prayers, sadly, did not save 26 churchgoers in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Just as they didnt save nine lives at the Bible study group in Charleston, South Carolina, two years ago.

Theres still some shock left from the faces of the Texas death toll, which included a pregnant woman, a five-year-old child, and the pastors teenage daughter. But there was also shock at the toll inside Charlestons Emanuel AME church, which included the pastor himself. And we have yet to process the shock of the carnage in Las Vegas, that left 58 country music fans dead just last month.

Theres also some shock left from the pathetic excuses for inaction that tumble out at times like this. This isnt just a failure of leadership at the very top: members of Congress and statehouses on both sides of the aisle and across the country have proved themselves to be delusional cowards. Either they act like nothing can be done to stop gun violence, or they pretend guns make America safer.

Then theres the special podium of delusional cowardice occupied by Donald Trump. I think that mental health is your problem here, he told reporters at a press conference in Tokyo on Monday. This was a very based on preliminary reports very deranged individual. A lot of problems over a long period of time. We have a lot of mental health problems in our country, as do other countries. But this isnt a guns situation.

Let us all sigh for the souls whom we have yet to lose, in part because of this stupidity. Of course these are mental health issues. Of course we need to treat mental health like any other health challenge. Of course other countries have the same issues.

But other countries are not awash with guns. So its that much harder for people suffering from mental health issues to gun down large numbers of their fellow citizens in church, or at school, or at an open-air concert. Or take their own lives, which is by far the bigger killer with guns.

Fortunately somebody else had a gun that was shooting in the opposite direction, continued Trump, speaking without any factual basis, otherwise it would have been as bad as it was, it would have been much worse. But this is a mental health problem at the highest level.

Yes, this is a mental health problem at the highest level. Just not the one you think it is, Mr President.

According to the local sheriff, the gunman was only confronted by an armed civilian once he emerged from the church, after the massacre was completed. The mass murderer died by killing himself.

So along with the victims, lets please bury once and for all the storyline pushed so hard by the National Rifle Association, and echoed by Donald Trump. The only thing that stopped the bad guy with a gun was the bad guy with his own gun. The good guys were shot dead in their church pews.

On the bleak day after the Texas shooting, there is a determined effort to understand the shooters motives, as if that explanation could mitigate future disasters or make sense of the last one. This has not been the case of Las Vegas, where the local sheriff now suggests the shooter was depressed after losing money.

It is too easy to compare the political reaction to Sutherland Springs with the reaction to last weeks Isis-inspired mass killing in New York. The truth is they are both appalling and our lawmakers and leaders have the capacity to deal with both kinds of murders.

But heres how demented our gun debate has become: for all the fear and loathing of potential terrorists, it is still perfectly legal for people on the terrorist watch-list to buy as many guns as they want in the United States. We wont let them board a plane, of course. But we will let them purchase an assault rifle like the Ruger AR-15, a semi-automatic modeled on the standard military issue.

Why is there such a gaping hole in our national security? You might ask the National Rifle Association that question. On the other hand, ask the members of Congress who are so ready with their outrage about Islamist terrorism but so silent about domestic terrorism.

Texas governor Greg Abbott sounded surprised by the fact that this shooter got his hands on an AR-15 when he was refused a Texas gun license. By all the facts that we seem to know, he was not supposed to have access to a gun, Abbott told CNN. So how did this happen?

Come on, Governor. Dont act so dumbfounded. You have personally championed the unrestricted sale of guns to all-comers at gun shows and in private sales. When President Obama tried to close the gun-show loophole after the Sandy Hook massacre, you tweeted this: Obama wants to impose more gun control. My response#? COME & TAKE IT.

Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX)

Obama wants to impose more gun control. My response.#? COME & TAKE IT @NRA #tcot #PJNET

January 1, 2016

Just to be clear about your intended audience, you tagged the National Rifle Association in that tweet.

The NRAs position is as clear as it is nonsensical. Only guns will save us from guns. We must have a national database of the mentally ill, but we cannot have a national database of gun owners. We must confront Islamist terrorists but we cannot stop them buying guns. Hollywood is to blame for the culture of violence, but the gun culture itself has nothing to do with it.

Donald Trump is right. This is a mental health problem at the highest level, and our leaders need urgent treatment. In the meantime, let us pray for them to come to their senses as soon as they can.

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