We are experiencing “Groundhog Day” in America — but the result isn’t sweet and funny as in the 1993 Bill Murray film. It’s sick and psychopathic.
We have long had mass shootings in the United States because of the ready availability of guns. All the way back in 1966 a former Marine and student mounted the clock tower at the University of Texas at Austin and killed 14 people with a rifle. Americans were horrified, and rightly so, but things have gotten a whole lot worse since. The 1966 attack is now tied for 11th place in the list of mass shootings here. Eight of the 10 worst modern mass shootings have occurred in the past decade, with Saturday’s attack at a Walmart in El Paso, which killed 20 people, is now the eighth worst in U.S. history. The deadliest mass shooting — which left 58 people dead in Las Vegas — came less than two years ago. The second deadliest — 50 dead at a nightclub in Orlando — was just three years ago.
This trend of mass shootings has intersected with another trend: the rise of white-supremacist ideology. Nine people shot to death in an African American church in Charleston, S.C., in 2015. One killed with a car and 19 injured at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, in 2017. Eleven shot to death at a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018, and two more killed that year at a yoga studio in Tallahassee, Fla. One killed and three wounded at a synagogue in Poway, Calif., this year. Three killed just last week at a garlic festival in Gilroy, Calif. (although there is a dispute over whether that shooting was motivated by white supremacist ideology). In El Paso, a city with an 80 percent Hispanic population, the suspect is believed to have released a manifesto online in which he announced: “This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
We are actually lucky in a way — although this is faint comfort to grieving families in El Paso — because the far-right attacks could have been far worse. A Florida man mailed bombs to prominent critics of President Trump but none exploded, and a Coast Guard officer is alleged to have been arming himself for a killing spree when he was arrested. It was certainly worse in New Zealand, where a white-supremacist fanatic murdered 51 people in March; his manifesto continues to inspire copycat killers such as the one in El Paso. (I am not using the names of these monsters so as to deny them the publicity they seek.)
After an earlier terrorist attack — this one carried out by two Muslims who killed 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif., on Dec. 2, 2015 — President Trump, then a candidate, notoriously called “for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.” Compare that with his reaction to the El Paso shooting, which was to send “thoughts and prayers” and condemn “today’s hateful act” but without suggesting any action in response.
Let me help you out, Mr. President. I suggest that, until we figure out what the hell is going on, you institute a total and complete shutdown of your inciting, racist rhetoric. I also suggest that, until we figure out what the hell is going on, you call for a total and complete shutdown of sales of assault weapons such as the one used by the El Paso killer and for a total and complete regulation of the sale of handguns in America.
That’s what you need to do, Mr. President, if you care at all about the well-being of the people of America. Yet you continue to spew hatred. On the very morning of the El Paso attack, you twice retweeted the notorious British hate-monger Katie Hopkins spewing venom against Muslims. Last month, you told congresswomen of color to “go back” to where they come from. And in May, at a rally in Florida, you demanded, “How do you stop these people?” — meaning undocumented immigrants. Someone shouted, “Shoot them.” Instead of chastising this hate-monger, you chuckled and said, to loud cheers, “That’s only in the Panhandle you can get away with that stuff.”
Whether you know it or not, Mr. President, you are recklessly enflaming the sickos of America. The very last line of the manifesto attributed to the alleged El Paso gunman could have come straight out of one of your speeches: “I am honored to head the fight to reclaim my country from destruction.”
You also refuse, Mr. President, to address the easy availability of weapons of war in America. Assault rifles are the preferred weapons of mass shooters, and yet you refuse to ask Congress to ban their sale — or, even better, to buy back all of the existing assault weapons, as was done in Australia in 1996 after the worst mass shooting in that country’s history. Australia hasn’t seen such a massacre since. The United States, by contrast, has had 249 mass shootings just this year.
You will lead our country to destruction, Mr. President, unless you act to curb gun violence — and your own hateful rhetoric.