Robert Card, a 40-year-old white firearms instructor and member of the U.S. Army Reserves, killed at least 18 people in a bowling alley and a restaurant in the northern state of Maine. The attack was the deadliest of the 565 mass shootings that have occurred to date this year in the U.S. It was particularly shocking to the people of this predominantly rural state on the border with Canada, known for its relatively peaceful atmosphere: In 2022, only 29 murders were recorded in the whole state.
The massacre perpetrated by Card prompted President Joe Biden to repeat what he says in the face of events like these: “Far too many Americans have now had a family member killed or injured as a result of gun violence. That is not normal, and we cannot accept it … I urge Republican lawmakers in Congress to fulfill their duty to protect the American people. Work with us to pass a bill banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, to enact universal background checks, to require safe storage of guns, and to end immunity from liability for gun manufacturers.”
The president is right to condemn the gun zealots, some of whom are also Democrats, who have systematically blocked every effort to introduce a modicum of common sense regarding the selling, possession and carrying of high-powered weapons — which there is no plausible reason for civilians to have. However, he is presenting his criticism against the backdrop of profoundly delusional thinking about what causes the American way of killing, that peculiar form of random violence without parallel in any corner of the world that subjects U.S. citizens to death rates that do no exist in other wealthy countries.
In characterizing the mass shootings — yet another, almost every other day — as absurd and pointless, Biden is ignoring the origin of his fellow citizens’ gun mania derived from the country’s founding and the sadly exemplary role the government plays. We should not forget that the U.S. was founded on one of the biggest genocides in history, the deliberate extinction of the native population and the confinement of the few survivors in concentration camps euphemistically dubbed reservations.
Nor is it possible to ignore the fact that Washington has been the principal instigator of war in the past century; that it maintains a larger defense budget than the total combined defense budgets of the next 10 countries; that it has military bases around the world and that, in short, it has made violence its automatic response and ultimate solution to any problem. The most recent examples of how the White House has put weapons before words include countless incursions into Latin America; the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq; inciting conflict in Ukraine by providing increasingly deadly weapons to Kyiv; and, most recently, deploying two aircraft carrier attack groups to Israel.
Deploying the aircraft carriers to the Levant shows where the president’s priorities and thinking lie. Each ship costs $14 million and requires $6 million in daily maintenance (according to 2016 data) and the vessels are escorted by a guided-missile cruiser, two helicopter carriers, two destroyers or three frigates, and an unspecified number of nuclear submarines and other support vessels (including tankers). All this is to contain militias that are fighting with handmade missiles, and before even engaging in negotiations to rescue the hostages captured by Hamas or using diplomatic channels.
If the political and moral leader of a country conducts himself in this way in the face of international challenges, we shouldn’t be surprised when his people pick up guns to settle any disagreement or any simple emotional upset.