On Wednesday, a troubled young man once again turned an American school into a war zone. Seventeen more people died bleeding and terrified in a place that was supposed to nurture their potential. There have now been 18 school shootings in 2018, and well over 300 mass shootings since Donald Trump took office.
Over the latter period, the president has rolled back a rule that would have made it more difficult for the severely mentally ill to obtain firearms; made it easier for fugitives to purchase guns; and proposed $12 million in cuts to America’s background check system. He has also tried to slash $625 million from federal mental health programs, and $1 trillion from Medicaid, one of the top sources of health insurance for the mentally ill in the United States.
And, of course, Trump and his party have prevented any piece of legislation regulating the firearms market from making it into law.
On Thursday morning, the president expressed regret that more hadn’t been done to prevent the senseless violence at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. But he did not fault himself or Congress for inaction; rather, he laid responsibility for the tragedy at the feet of the dead.
Nikolas Cruz was expelled from his high school. His mother (reportedly) regularly called “the police to have them come to their home to try to talk some sense into him.” The “authorities” knew about the 19-year-old’s “bad and erratic behavior.” But they could do little about it. It is not a crime to be mentally disturbed and poorly behaved. And, thanks to the president (and, arguably, the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Second Amendment) it is not illegal for a mentally ill person to purchase an assault weapon.
But the recreational liberty of far-right gun enthusiasts — and the profit margins of firearms manufacturers — must never be restricted. And so the victims must be taught that they brought this on themselves.