The Line: Latest US mass shooting

One of the better and most realistic, sadly so, commentaries on the Uvalde etc shootings:

Your Line editors have, between them, many decades of journalism experience. More than we honestly like to admit. And one of the types of stories that we have covered or in some way responded to more than any other is a catastrophic mass-casualty shooting in the United States.

We won’t bother recapping the details of the disaster in Texas this week, or the one in Buffalo just days before that. What point would it serve? They’re all basically the same. We really don’t have anything left to say that we haven’t said already. Worse, we’ve said it all many times. The towns, the pictures of the victims, the powerful statements by survivors … they’ve all blurred together. They blurred together years ago. 

Honestly, folks, we’re just plain out of helpful suggestions or novel insights or calls to action we think would have the slightest chance of actually working.  America’s problem with guns is not actually a gun-control problem. Now before you think we’re about to go on some NRA-inspired discussion about mental health or video games or a broken society or anything like that, you should know that we agree that the American status quo on guns is appalling. And your Line editors like guns a lot more than the average Canadian.

It’s not that guns aren’t a problem in the U.S. The access-to-firearms differential between the U.S. and everyone else is the only meaningful outlier, so yes, it’s clearly the guns. But the focus on gun control is misplaced not because the status quo is good, but because the gun dysfunction is a symptom of the actual problem: America’s political culture and systems are broken. 

Americans like their guns. A lot. Millions of them support the gun lobby for that reason. There’s no denying that, and probably no changing it. But the American policy status on guns is way, way to the right of where even the pro-gun, Second Amendment-loving population of the good ole U.S. of A want it to be.

This is often overlooked. A supermajority of Americans would support many reasonable limits on access to firearms. Just this week, for example, a poll found 88-per-cent national support for mandatory background checks before the sale of a firearm in the U.S. They’re not going to become Canada or Japan overnight, but again, an overwhelming majority of Americans would support at least some basic gun control measures that have absolutely zero chance of being enacted into law because the Republican party is captured by one of the more extreme factions of its base. 

This is an easy enough problem to identify. Doing anything about it is the hard part. The gun lobby in the United States has become something of a self-sustaining machine, and it is more than powerful enough to keep one of the two parties in a two-party system bent to its will.

Any conversation about how to prevent the next gun massacre in the United States that does not start from a position of understanding that this is fundamentally a problem within the Republican Party is a nonstarter. We don’t care about your memes comparing gun violence in America to gun violence in the rest of the Western world. Do not tell us about Britain after Dunblane or Australia after Port Arthur. Don’t inform us that all we need to do is get rid of the AR-15s. Withhold your video clips of Jacinda Ardern. All of these things are quite literally as useful as noting that we could zero out gun violence in America overnight if we just got Americans to be nice and stop shooting each other, because they all exist in a make-believe world where the GOP was not, 1. Powerful enough to impede meaningful change, and, 2. In the pocket of the gun lobby. The Brits, Aussies and Kiwis aren’t the United States, do not have the United States’ problems and specifically did not have the GOP blocking what a huge majority of Americans would want, at least in terms of basic things like background checks. If your bright idea doesn’t account for that, it ain’t that bright.

Your Line editors are worried about the United States, and our worry comes from a place of love. We love America, we love Americans. We are regular visitors there and have many friends and family in that country. We are admirers of its culture and especially its history. But it is a very sick place right now. And it is really hard to see how it is going to be able to begin to fix its problems without some kind of catastrophic system reset. We are not hoping for one (because we think it would have to be really catastrophic). Far from it. But we honestly don’t know what else would work.

Barring that, our friends to the south, whom we truly do care about deeply, are going to continue converting happy children full of all the potential of life into unrecognizable lumps of state evidence at an alarming rate, and it doesn’t matter how horrified anyone is by this or how earnestly you tweet about it, because until the Americans crack the political problem, it’s not that they won’t change, it’s that they can’t

We have different problems up here. In the aftermath of the San Antonio debacle, coming so quickly as it did on the heels of the Buffalo massacre, Justin Trudeau has said his Liberal party will be bringing out another round of gun control proposals shortly.

Because of course they are.

Friends, we don’t expect you to be experts in the various regulatory policies that, in combination, make up our gun-control regime. It’s really complicated stuff that the average person simply does not have any reason to know. But your Lineeditors do know it. Very well. And we can tell you, with all honesty and certainty, that most of what the Liberals have proposed in recent years, always in the aftermath of a high-profile tragedy, is entirely theatrical. Utterly and epically for show. A lot of what they announce is just re-announcing stuff they’ve already said they will do, or in some cases actually already exists. The rest is stuff that won’t actually address the factors that are the overwhelming contributor to firearms homicides in Canada (mainly mostly, smuggling of guns into Canada from the U.S.)…

Source: The Line Dispatch: Uvalde and other shootings

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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