This post is excerpted from the INDY’s morning newsletter, Primer. To read this morning’s edition in full, click here. To get all the day’s local and national headlines and insights delivered straight to your inbox, sign up here.
The president, who couldn’t even bring himself to say the word “gun” in a six-minute speech on a mass shooting, wants us to talk about mental health instead, even though he repealed an Obama regulation that sought to prevent the sale of guns to some people with mental illness [WaPo] or whether Nikolas Cruz’s classmates and neighbors bore some responsibility because they didn’t report him [NBC]. Fox News, ignoring the fact that Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School had an armed guard, wants more guns in schools [ThinkProgress]. North Carolina representative Larry Pittman, last seen calling Abraham Lincoln a tyrant, wants to arm teachers and school employees [N&O]. (He also thinks the shooter was part of a conspiracy to “push for gun control so they can more easily take over the country.” Yes, Larry Pittman is exactly that stupid.)
- This is all noise. Ignore it. Focus on the real issue: the Republican Party is owned wholesale by the National Rifle Association, such that it will look for any excuse not to question why a nineteen-year-old who had anger issues and may have been diagnosed with autism, according to a neighbor [NYT], was able to legally purchase a semiautomatic killing machine and mow down seventeen people.
- Before we go any further, take a look at the seventeen people Cruz killed. While Cruz’s name will live on in infamy, we should endeavor to keep his victims in our minds, too, and remember that their deaths could and should have been prevented, if only our leaders had a little more spine [CNN]. They are teachers and students, athletes and athletic coaches. And their lives were cut short.
WHAT WE’VE LEARNED: Parkland, where this terror took place, is one of the safest cities in Florida. That all changed in the span of about five minutes (it’s amazing what something that shoots forty-five rounds a minute can do). The school where this took place knew the lockdown drills and executed them well. It didn’t matter. [WaPo]
- As the students fled, Cruz allegedly ditched his weapons and tried to blend in with them [CBS].
- White supremacists have claimed Cruz trained with them—the cops say that’s not confirmed—and he liked to wear Trump’s Make America Great Again hat. His classmates say he was politically extreme, prone to ranting about Muslims and fawning over guns. [Daily Beast]
- The report that there have been eighteen school shootings appears to be overstated. Everytown for Gun Safety, the group providing the data, counts any incident in which a gun was discharged on school grounds, whether anyone was injured or not. Just five of those incidents occurred during school hours and resulted in physical injury. Another three were intentional shootings where no one got hurt. Two others involved guns that were unintentionally fired by a school official or cop. [WaPo via N&O]
THE GUN LOBBY GIVETH: Yesterday, I had one of our interns cull through campaign finance records for North Carolina politicians in an effort to determine how much the NRA had purchased them for. Some of this work had been done for us by other outlets. Politico, for instance, tracks gun-rights group’s donations by congressional district. Here you’ll find that, during the 2016 cycle, they gave nearly $6 million to Republican House members and just over $106,000 to Democrats, and no money to North Carolina Democrats. However, all ten Republican representatives raked in the lucre, with the most going to Richard Hudson ($13,500) and the least going to Walter Jones ($1,250).
- The NRA has also favored North Carolina’s senator, Richard Burr
andThom Tillis, spending more than $7 million on Burr’s behalf and $4.5 million to help Tillis. Yesterday, “Burr declined to say whether he thinks assault-style weapons like the AR-15 used in Wednesday’s shooting should be banned, or their magazines limited.” Tillis tweeted out thoughts and prayers. [N&O]
- As for other politicians in the state, according to my intern’s research: Governor Cooper has taken $2,000 from the NRA throughout his career, and Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest a little under $4,000 in direct and in-kind donations. Senate leader Phil Berger has accepted $7,200, and House Speaker Tim Moore has taken $3,250.
WHAT IT MEANS: Hope, as Nick Hornby wrote, is a bastard, a liar, a cheat, and a tease. But I’m nonetheless cautiously optimistic that maybe this time will be different, maybe we have finally reached a long-overdue tipping point. I’m probably wrong, of course. The president and congressional Republicans have no interest in standing up to their benefactors and enacting sensible regulations. But I feel like people have finally had enough.
- Consider the front page of Trump’s favorite newspaper, the Murdoch-owned New York Post: “Mr. President, Please Act,” it begs. An editorial: “But, sorry, a meeting with governors and state attorneys general to make school safety a top priority isn’t remotely enough. No, you need to get behind some steps that can help rein in these endless nightmares. No, not end them altogether—but at least to limit the toll and reduce the frequency.” The Post asks the president to ban bump stocks, which the Las Vegas mass shooter used to make his weapon fully automatic; kill the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act; raise the age to purchase guns; and reinstate the assault weapons ban.
- Yesterday, Trump’s new head of Health and Human Services opened the door to expanding gun-violence research at the CDC, something the federal government has banned for twenty years at the behest of the gun crowd. This is something local congressman David Price has been seeking for years. [INDY]
- These are small indicators, so far signaling nothing of import. But they are signs that public pressure is starting to wear down the stone, and there’s no better way to continue to do that than to keep pressuring public officials to do the right thing. A few folks wrote me after yesterday’s rant asking what they could do. A few suggestions: 1) If you have the resources, donate to Everytown or the Brady Campaign for Gun Violence. Make these groups as well-funded and powerful as the NRA. 2) Take to the streets. March on your capital and make your anger felt. 3) Call your state representatives and members of Congress and demand that they return every last penny of the NRA’s blood money they have taken throughout their careers. 4) Vote these bastards out and replace them with people who have some semblance of basic human decency. 5) Don’t take your eye off the ball. Don’t get distracted by mental health or the FBI’s possible screw up. Focus on what matters: people are dying because our politicians are refusing to act at the behest of the gun lobby.