On Monday morning, President Trump tweeted his "warm condolences" to the people affected by America's most deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas on Sunday night. Apparently, he was under the impression that he was expressing sympathy for the death of someone's 94-year-old grandmother who died peacefully in her sleep, because "warm condolences" is a very weird thing to say about a mass murder.
He did come out later and woodenly recite a written statement about how the gunman was pure evil, rattling off some scripture that he'd clearly never heard before. He and the first lady and the Pences walked onto the White House lawn and stood for a moment of silence. That's all he had to say on Day One.
That's unusual. Normally after a mass killing, Trump is the first one on Twitter, often jumping to conclusions that it's a terrorist attack, bellowing about how we must be "tough and strong" and condemning foreign officials for their failures. Mass shootings have generally been greeted with criticism of America's "strict" gun laws and suggestions that everyone should be armed so there will be bullets "going the other way," as if that would cause fewer rather than even more casualties. This comment after the San Bernardino attack was typical:
And by the way, by the way, if the people in Paris or the people in California, if you had a couple of folks in there with guns, and that knew how to use them, and they were in that room, you wouldn't have dead people, the dead people would be the other guys.
After Orlando he first took credit:
Later, he added this:
"If some of those wonderful people had guns strapped right here, right to their waist or right to their ankle," Trump said, patting his hip, "and this son of a b---- comes out and starts shooting and one of the people in that room happened to have (a gun) and goes 'boom, boom.' You know what, that would have been a beautiful, beautiful sight, folks."
He walked that back a couple of days later, saying that he meant employees of the Orlando nightclub, rather than patrons. Even the NRA, which insists that more guns are always the answer, had suggested that mixing guns and lots of alcohol might not be a good idea.
That particular line of argument doesn't work in the case of this latest bloodbath, although some gun proliferation crusaders gave it the good old NRA try. The shooter was 32 floors above a crowd of 22,000 people, shooting down at them with automatic and semiautomatic rifles. They were sitting ducks. Mostly the gun zealots just fell back on the old refrain that "this is the price we pay for freedom," as Bill O'Reilly fatuously declared.
Trump is invariably loquacious about mass violence when it's perpetrated by a Muslim or an African-American. Whether it's banning all Muslims from entering the country or unleashing the police to go after black men, in that circumstance he says the country must pull out all the stops to end the carnage. He called for the banning of all Muslims after San Bernardino. When a man targeted police officers in Dallas, he called it “an attack on our country... a coordinated, premeditated assault on the men and women who keep us safe." He thundered, "We must restore law and order!" Considering his comments in the past, that could only mean that police should take the gloves off and be treated with impunity.
When it's a white male perpetrating a mass shooting (as it usually is), Trump takes the view that victims should have been armed, but other than that there's nothing to be done about it:
Even if you did great mental health programs, people are going to slip through the cracks... But what are you going to do? Institutionalize everybody? You're going to have difficulties with many different things... that's the way the world works, and that's the way the world has always worked.
The head of Nevada's NRA affiliate agrees with that sentiment, saying on Monday after the massacre in Las Vegas, “When someone has that kind of mentality, it doesn’t matter what kind of laws you have."
This would explain why President Trump, in one of his first acts as president, rescinded an Obama-era regulation that prohibited mentally ill people, those whom the Social Security Administration had designated as too seriously impaired to manage their own finances, from purchasing firearms. The NRA was very pleased with this, calling the previous rule "Obama's unconstitutional gun grab." Apparently, no matter how mentally ill you are, you should still be allowed to buy as many semiautomatic weapons as you want. What could possibly go wrong?
Anyway, despite what Trump and the NRA believe, it doesn't work that way at all—except in the United States. We are the world leader in gun violence because we are the world leader in gun ownership. By a mile. We have 4.4 percent of the world's population but nearly half of the civilian-owned firearms on the planet. We use them to kill and maim a lot of people, including many children. According to the Gun Violence Archive:
And speaking of children, since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012, there have been 1,500 more mass shootings, more than one for every day. That makes it very convenient for the gun proliferation crusaders who say we can't talk about gun control on the day of a mass shooting, as White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders admonished us yesterday.
Some members of the media seemed to be impressed with Trump's "tone" on Monday, suggesting that his call for unity, after a weekend of arguments with Puerto Rican officials begging for help in the wake of Hurricane Maria and his sharp criticism of black NFL players protesting police violence, represented some kind of epiphany. But the sad truth is that as with the NRA, which traditionally goes silent after each horrifying act of mass gun violence, the only enemy available for him to blame for all this is a dead white man and the lethal arsenal he legally acquired to shoot down 600 people. And in Donald Trump's mind that's "just the way the world works."