Sorry, Mr. Trump, it’s not “an act of cowardice.”
The alleged terrorist who targeted the predominantly Spanish-speaking clientele of a Walmart on Saturday, Aug. 3, in El Paso, Texas, seemed more motivated by hatred and a sense of racial superiority than by cowardice.
If we are looking for cowardly acts committed in the United States, let’s say since 2012, let’s turn to those elected in Washington. The year of the Sandy Hook tragedy, everyone believed that after the deaths of 28 people in an elementary school—including 20 children—the debate on gun control would progress.
But each time since that dark day, elected officials have blocked the adoption of new laws, even though the majority of the U.S. population wants change.
You had to see Republican Senator Rick Santorum on CNN yesterday, opposing “hasty” reforms, because, he said, gun control regulations could never stop criminals from killing. “Criminals and people who do bad things are not worried about gun laws,” said the ex-presidential candidate, repeating that we shouldn’t “politicize” these shootings.
Statistics and a Picture
With the dual tragedies of Dayton, Ohio and El Paso this past weekend, the number of shootings in the United States has climbed to 251 in 2019, more than there have been days in the year. According to Gun Violence Archive, the “mass shooting” category includes those that occur in public spaces and have at least four victims. Their count is 520 deaths and at least 2000 injured this year.
They say that a picture is worth a thousand words (or a thousand numbers). The Trace website, which specializes in reporting on gun violence, has created a map illustrating some 150,000 shootings that occurred in the United States over the past five years. Looking at the multitude of yellow and red dots that illuminate the terrain, with concentrations in city centers and on the country’s two coasts, it feels like looking at a map of air traffic over the North American continent.
Good Guys and Bad Guys
For a long time, two cancers have been eating away at American society: the gun lobby and white supremacy. And Washington politicians persist in refusing treatment.
First, firearms. Year in and year out, the National Rifle Association and anti-gun control politicians whip out the Second Amendment to the Constitution, the right of citizens to bear arms for self-defense. They use a rhetoric that goes something like this: the “good guy” with a gun will stop the “bad guy” from doing harm with his weapon.
There is no evidence to support this claim. It’s magical thinking.
On the contrary, the FBI analyzed 160 shootings that took place between 2000 and 2013. Among them, only one was stopped by someone carrying a legal weapon … while 21 unarmed citizens prevented carnage.
The recent shootings, like the one in Las Vegas and in a gay bar in Orlando, show us that killers are always prepared to orchestrate a massacre. With semi-automatic weapons, sophisticated chargers, piles of ammunition, etc. Late Saturday night/early Sunday morning in Ohio, the shooter killed nine and wounded 30 … in less than a minute.
Another cancer is gnawing at America from within—home-grown terrorism, often practiced by young white men and sociopaths who self-radicalize. But they are no longer “lone wolves;” they evolve in an extremely unhealthy social and political climate that feeds their ideological dementia.
Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, the U.S. government has targeted the enemy as an external, Islamist and anti-American threat. Meanwhile, it has let a fringe of white extremists grow inside. The phenomenon already existed—the worst example being Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995—but after September 11, the authorities have neglected it.
We don’t know much about the young author of the racist manifesto who drove 10 hours across Texas to kill 20 people (six of whom were Mexican) in cold blood. Only that he chose El Paso, a city on the border with Mexico, already cited as an example by Trump to justify his administration strengthening the border. Last February, during his State of the Union address, the President boasted that El Paso, formerly a high-crime area, has become one of the safest cities in the country. “Simply put, walls work and walls save lives!” Trump crowed.
Clearly, cancer is eating at America from the inside. And don’t count on its president to treat it.