Two massacres, one in Texas and one in Ohio, take place in an America that is no stranger to the suffering that is a mass shooting. More than ever, President Donald Trump and his dangerous rhetoric must be held to account.
An American bloodbath. In the space of a few hours, two mass shootings in quick succession plunged the United States into mourning. Twenty deaths in Texas and 10 in Ohio, including the killer, have once again utterly horrified the country.
As ever after each new shooting, the debate over better gun control starts again. But, as ever after each new shooting, once the feelings have passed, the debate quickly dissipates as well. The majority of Americans cling to their Constitution’s sacred Second Amendment, guaranteeing them the right to bear arms, a right that is deeply engrained in the American psyche.* The arms lobby, the National Rifle Association, can be viewed as losing influence, but it is still very powerful, raining millions of dollars down on legislators in Congress.
The nongovernmental organization Gun Violence Archive asserts that since the beginning of the year, 251 shootings involving more than four people have already taken place. There will be others. You only have to look at one single figure to prove it. Nearly 393 million guns are in circulation in the United States. That’s more than the number of people who live there.
This time though, one uncomfortable but urgent question must be asked: Does the president’s violent language have a role in this? To what extent does Trump, someone who talks about “invasions of immigrants,” compares migrants to “dangerous criminals,” portrays Mexicans as rapists and tells congresswomen of color to “go back to where they came from,” nurture the shooters’ homicidal insanity? Trump never fails to stir up racial hatred, deepening divisions to satisfy his conservative electoral base. He has proved as much in recent days. In Texas, the 21-year-old shooter turned out to be the author of an anti-immigrant manifesto which he posted online 20 minutes before the tragedy. In it, he denounced the “Hispanic invasion.”
Trump behaves like a dangerous arsonist. His words reinvigorate and legitimize white supremacists. This is today’s America. A country where even people suffering mental health issues have the right to own a gun. While the failure of elected representatives to limit access to guns deserves blame, the president’s violent rhetoric is truly a plague, one that feeds on domestic terrorism like poison.
*Editor’s note: The Second Amendment provides in full: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”