When news broke of the recent shooting at an American school, US Senator Chris Murphy entered the Senate late Tuesday afternoon. The man representing Newtown, Connecticut, who wept and grieved with his parents there a decade ago, made a simple declarative statement.
“That’s only happening in this country and nowhere else,” said Murphy, a Democrat, before asking his peers to join him and do something to try to reduce mass shootings.
He defined American exceptionalism, albeit not in the way most politicians use the term.
These two words—American exceptionalism—are most commonly spoken by Republicans during an election year. They are meant to evoke a certain pride in the nation.
But in the context of what just happened Uvalde, Texas, the phrase reveals the seedy underbelly of a nation paralyzed by gun violence. No one mows down 19 innocent children and two teachers like an 18-year-old American with a weapon of war in hand. That’s no exaggeration. It’s the simple truth.
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Whether it’s 10 people at a Buffalo grocery store killed with an assault rifle by a concerned racist, or children in a town in Southwest Texas in a state where an 18-year-old can buy an AR-15 for his birthday , no country in the world suffers from mass shootings like the USA by A.
We can’t even bury the dead from one mass shooting before moving on to the next. We are the mass shooting capital of the world.
Gays in an Orlando club: dead.
Vegas concert-goers: dead.
Movie fans in Aurora: Dead.
Jews praying in Pittsburgh. Dead.
Blacks buy groceries at a grocery store in Buffalo: Dead.
School children in Columbine, Newtown and Uvalde: dead.
This is what American exceptionalism looks like. We give mentally ill men access to weapons of war that are virtually impossible to obtain in any other country. Too often they go on rampages. We think and pray for a few moments, hours or days to honor the victims.
And then we don’t do anything – except maybe make it easier to get guns. That’s because too many American Republicans and a handful of Democrats belong to the National Rifle Association and refuse to honor dead children by doing whatever it takes to prevent the next massacre.
There are guns for sale. Campaign coffers must be filled. spreading conspiracy theories. Whataboutisms to distract from the gruesome reality of the corpses piling up from mass shootings year after year.
That will happen after this column is published. NRA-funded politicians and their favorite TV and radio announcers will criticize my use of “assault rifles” or any argument for using American laws to limit the spread of gun violence. They will, as did U.S. Representative Paul Gosar, R-Flagstaff, spread false rumours about the killer to anger extremists. Background checks won’t work, they will say. Or red flag laws. Or keeping guns away from perpetrators of domestic violence. Or bans on assault weapons or spirit weapons.
The US has far more mass shootings than any other country in the world, partly because we have more guns and weaker gun laws than other countries.
That’s because in other countries — England and Australia, for example — their legislatures responded to the horrors of mass shootings by enacting laws restricting people’s ability to obtain weapons of war. After a horrific mass shooting in 1996, Australia’s response included tightening licensing requirements and banning semi-automatic weapons National Firearms Convention. There has only been one mass shooting there in the past two decades.
America could. If we were truly exceptional.
In his Tuesday night address to the nation, President Joe Biden desperately implored his fellow Americans to join him in doing something to end the slaughter: “As a nation, we have to ask,” Biden said, “when, in God’s name.” , will we stand up to the gun lobby?”
I thought that would happen after Columbine, more than two decades ago. This shooting happened in my hometown of Littleton, Colorado, at a school I attended often. I wanted to believe that America had the courage to answer that question with a certain bipartisan courage to stand up against the murder of children. Back then, even the NRA believed in universal background checks. But since then, the arms manufacturers and their partners have wreaked legislative havoc. You win every time. You win with fear and lies. And the result is more guns, more mass shootings, more death, more empty thoughts and prayers.
One thing we did after Columbine: we taught two generations of students how to conduct armed intruder drills. On Wednesday morning, the Rockwood School District, where my youngest children attend school, sent out a notice to offer calm to parents concerned about school shootings. Similar notes were likely sent out from schools across the country. The note explained how well the schools were prepared in the event of a mass shooting. Our children and teachers are well trained in intruder alerts, the note said. Our schools have experienced teams of crisis counselors.
The note didn’t reassure me. It made me angry. We don’t do anything to stop school shootings — but apparently we’re really good at relieving the pain once the bodies are scattered across the bloody ground. This is what American exceptionalism looks like in 2022.