In his column, talkRADIO presenter Michael Graham gives the US conservative viewpoint on current issues.
The most common question I get about America from Brits (and Belgians and Belarussians and pretty much every non-American I meet) is “Why don’t you do something about guns?!”
It’s a difficult and complex question—and a regular topic on my Saturday night radio show. And if you’re looking for a good example of the forces that keep America fighting over guns, as opposed to finding consensus and solutions, you’ll find it in the horrific shooting at a Maryland newspaper on Thursday. In particular, the reaction to it.
The story is tragically straightforward: A nutcase with a grudge (I never use the names of mass shooters on air or in print. Why give them any more attention?) showed up at the Capital Gazette newspaper and killed five people in what police called a “targeted attack.” He had been convicted of a rather petty crime - harassing a woman he met over Facebook, for which he served a suspended sentence - and was angered by the newspaper’s coverage of the story.
For years he complained, threatened and attempted to sue the paper. He lost his case and eventually picked up a shotgun. Five innocent people are dead and the dirtbag is in custody.
What makes this case frustrating is that everyone could see this guy’s irrational anger. Several people predicted he was the sort of person who could turn violent - “He will be your next mass shooter,” his harassment victim said years ago - and yet nothing could be done. Why?
Because what is supposed to happen? Should we put citizens in jail because people think they’re crazy? Half the people you know (and at least two-thirds of the people in radio) would be in a padded room right now. We all know people we think are weird and wacky. Do we really want to put them all away?
Then there’s the issue of the gun. He used a shotgun, the most basic and ubiquitous gun in the US. Even the most pro-gun-control activists in the US go out of their way to say “Nobody’s coming for your shotgun. Nobody’s trying to take guns away from sportsmen and hunters.”
The pro-gun community rolls their eyes in response. We know that most of these anti-gun progressives would kick in our door and confiscate everything from so-called “assault rifles” to our kids’ pop guns if they could. That’s why they talk so openly about repealing the Second Amendment and ending the constitutional right to keep and bear arms.
The only way to stop the Maryland shooting would be to make gun ownership illegal. That may sound like a good idea in the UK, but not even the most liberal American politicians are prepared to run for office on that platform.
There’s another obstacle to reasonable gun debate in the Maryland story: the media’s ridiculously partisan reaction.
For hours, before knowing the shooter or his motives, US media outlets like CNN and MSNBC openly speculated that the shooter was inspired by President Trump’s bashing of #FakeNews and the liberal press.
Along with hours of uninformed, anti-Trump cable TV speculation came comments on social media.
Reuters editor John Cox wrote that Trump had blood on his hands. “This is what happens when @realDonaldTrump calls journalists the enemy of the people. Blood is on your hands, Mr. President. Save your thoughts and prayers for your empty soul,” he tweeted. He has since deleted it.
Longtime MSNBC commentator Cenk Uygur concurred.
And one White House correspondent for a liberal media outlet, Andrew Feinberg, blamed the shooting on President Trump before details became available. But once he knew that the shooting was motivated by personal anger and not politics, this “journalist” doubled-down: it was still Trump’s fault!
Add to that the petty attacks on the president for not stopping to chat when media members started yelling questions about the shooting at him, and many Trump supporters see the pattern: It’s not about guns, it’s not about safety - it’s about getting Trump.
There are no easy answers for America’s gun-crime problem, any more than there are easy solutions for London’s knife-crime problem. That doesn’t mean progress can’t be made in areas limiting the ammunition capacity of guns.
But as long as gun owners perceive that the other side of the aisle has no respect for their fundamental rights, or views the gun issue as just a political weapons to be wielded for partisan purposes, the answer to the question “Why won’t you yanks do something about guns?” isn’t going to change.
Michael's show is on every Saturday between 10pm-1am.