In Texas over the Labor Day holiday weekend, a crazed individual with a gun killed seven people and wounded 22. In the bland, bloodless language of the moment, such events are called mass shootings.
Across Baltimore over the same weekend, several crazed individuals with guns shot nine people. In the bland, bloodless language of this city, such events are called part of a routine weekend.
The latest bloodbaths won’t matter at all, will they?
We go on shooting and killing, and 93 percent of the country wants background checks, and 70 percent want a ban on military-style assault weapons, and all those brave people with the power to make this happen listen instead to the bullies with deep pockets from the National Rifle Association.
Whatever happened to the will of the people?
For a few heartbeats, it looked as if President Trump might show a little gumption, but he got over it once Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s leader, whispered a few words in his ear about next year’s presidential election.
In West Baltimore, five men were shot Saturday, and two were shot in East Baltimore, and two more on North Charles Street. Nice sense of geographic balance, no?
In Texas, the shootings stretched from an interstate highway to neighborhood streets to the parking lot of a movie theater. Texas has brand new laws easing restrictions on gun use in schools, foster homes, apartment buildings and houses of worship. The new laws went into effect the day after the mass shooting. Nice sense of irony, no?
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said the mass shooter, Seth Ator, shouldn’t have had a gun. He had a criminal history. He’d previously failed a gun purchase background check. He didn’t go through a background check for the gun he used over the weekend. Oh, and he was probably crazy, since he’d just lost his job.
This will play directly into President Trump’s posturing since his little chat with the NRA leadership — Ator was probably crazy with depression after he’d just lost his job.
That’s Trump’s latest pitch: it’s a bunch of crazy people doing the shooting, he informs us. He says this as though America’s the only place on earth with such people.
We must have a lot of them. Every day in America, we’re reliably told, 310 people are shot. About a hundred are killed. About two dozen children and teens are shot each day.
If it makes you feel any happier, Baltimore’s not alone in the carnage.
The NRA’s answer to all of this is scare tactics. Don’t give an inch, they tell their supporters, because it’ll just open the door to the government barging in and taking away your weapons.
In a nation of about 330 million people, we’re told there are nearly 400 million guns in circulation. Nobody’s doing a roundup, folks. What sane people are advocating is the merest gesture of control: anything that will keep guns out of bad people’s hands; and the elimination of military-style weapons intended strictly for mass murder.
The NRA plays the whole country for suckers every time they issue one of their warnings. And the biggest suckers are voters, who fail to take note of those politicians in the back pocket of the NRA, who are voted into office over and over.
The politicians don’t pull any triggers. They just drive the getaway car for the NRA.
A former Baltimore Sun columnist and WJZ-TV commentator, Michael Olesker is the author of six books, most recently “Front Stoops in the Fifties: Baltimore Legends Come of Age” (Johns Hopkins University Press).