Fri | Jul 20, 2018

Glenn Tucker | America shooting itself in the foot

Published:Saturday | February 17, 2018 | 12:00 AM
People gather waiting for word from students at Coral Springs Drive and the Sawgrass Expressway just south of the campus following a deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on February 14.

Recently, Parkland was voted the safest city in Florida. The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in that city is highly regarded by the Florida Board of Education.

Last Wednesday, a nightmare unfolded at that school. Nikolas Cruz, a former student, returned to Marjory Stoneman Douglas with an AR-15 rifle and opened fire, leaving at least 17 dead and 12 injured. If the school had not had constant drills, anticipating such an event, the carnage would have been greater.

My friend's grandchild who attends that school and knows Cruz told me that he entered their school system with an impressive rÈsumÈ three expulsions, aggressive, disruptive and showing signs of mental problems. Cruz carried guns that he openly displayed and would sometimes threaten other students. He would sometimes be seen laughing to himself. Eventually he was expelled. Both parents were deceased, but he was adopted. The adoptive mother died some weeks ago. He had started to receive counselling.

It came as no surprise to many in the school community, however, when it was revealed that Cruz was the shooter.

This year is set to be a record one for school shootings. With 45 days gone in 2018, there have already been 18 school shootings.

America leads the world in these kinds of mass shootings. Four separate polls I checked reveal that the overwhelming majority of Americans support gun-control laws. Why, one might ask, is nothing being done about it? The answer is simple: Republican politicians who are being bribed by the National Rifle Association (NRA) a powerful, well-funded lobby.

The top-10 career recipients of NRA funding, through 'donations' or spending to benefit the candidate, totals US$45 million for the Senate and US$4.5 million for the top 10 in the House. What do all of these politicians have in common? They are all Republicans. In fact, one would have to go down the list to number 41 before finding a token donation to a Democrat. Among the top 100 recipients of 'contributions' from the gun lobby, 95 are Republicans.

 

Political fight

 

The pro-gun lobby spent more than twice as much to fight Democrats (US$34.5 million) in 2016 as it did to support Republicans (US$14.5 million). President Trump was the biggest beneficiary of those ad dollars.

Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton had the NRA running scared, suspecting she would introduce stricter gun laws. She, along with congressional candidate, Deborah Ross, topped the NRA list of seven 'targets' in 2016. Every Democratic candidate 'targeted' by the NRA lost their seat.

If one is in the company of American media practitioners and the term 'thoughts and prayers' is mentioned, it evokes a cynical type of laughter. That is because these same Republicans who are in the pockets of the NRA and keep blocking legislation to restrict unsuitable persons from owning these weapons of mass destruction are the first to go public, hypocritically offering 'thoughts and prayers' for grieving loved ones.

Legislation was proposed in Florida that would restrict persons with mental-health problems like Cruz from owning assault weapons. Marco Rubio blocked it! And he had to. He got a cool million from the NRA in 2016. So Cruz could walk down the road to that school, struggling with that gun and the loads of ammunition and no one - even in law enforcement- could stop him. It's legal.

Apart from a tweet, President Trump has been largely silent. He tweeted "prayers and condolences" (tsk-tsk) to the families and blamed the whole thing on mental-health problems - exactly as the NRA would advise. And why not? He roped in US$11.9 million from the NRA in 2016. He is also the first president to address an NRA rally in 35 years.

With just 4.4 per cent of the world's population, America has well over 40 per cent of all the guns in the world. In 2015, 13,280 Americans died by the gun. And 28,000 were injured. In a country blessed with an abundance of resources, folly can be a friend for a long time.

In other parts of the world, wherever I have the privilege of talking to thinking people, there is genuine concern about the fate of the United States. But while the US has a president and the heads of the Senate and Congress all in the pockets of the gun lobby, every man has the freedom to vote. And in the final analysis, they have no one to blame but themselves.

- Glenn Tucker is an educator and sociologist. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and glenntucker2011@gmail.com.