The NRA has won

After the latest bout of mass shootings, American outrage will be short-lived, its gun addiction – preserved.

The names of the eleven people killed are written on hearts as people gather for a candlelight vigil after a mass shooting during Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations in Monterey Park, California, U.S. January 24, 2023. REUTERS/David Swanson
The names of the eleven people killed at the mass shooting in Monterey, California are written on hearts as people gather for a candlelight vigil on January 24, 2023 [Reuters/David Swanson]

Innocent after innocent has been murdered. Burial after burial has been consecrated. Eulogy after eulogy has been delivered. Tear after tear has been shed. Vigil after vigil has been held. Plea after plea has been made. Solution after solution has been offered. Column after column has been written.

Still, nothing changes.

Today, this much is clear if it wasn’t apparent before: most of America has conceded. The National Rifle Association (NRA) has won.

The slick defenders of America’s absurd addiction to guns have prevailed. The NRA’s victory over scores of unarmed Americans – including grade-school children – who have forfeited their lives to the astronomical arsenal of guns that litter America is as complete as it is emphatic.

The merchants of mayhem are no longer obliged even to feign concern for the latest casualties of the latest carnage or to trot out the familiar, trite catch phrases to defend what enlightened Americans consider indefensible.

So, the NRA keeps a silent distance and remains wedded to its crazed convictions that its beloved guns are not responsible for the pain and suffering endured so often by so many despite the one trait that America’s homegrown atrocities all share: a killer pulled a trigger.

Consider the halting figures. There is at least one gun in almost half of American households. In the last four decades, there have been at least 139 “mass shootings” across the United States involving 37 states. Since 2011, a mass shooting has occurred, on average, every 64 days. That, by any humane measure, constitutes an epidemic of man-made horror.

No one and no place is safe, not a classroom, a church, a movie theatre, a college campus, a restaurant, a grocery store, a nightclub, a bar, a bus, a subway station, a park, a shopping mall, a suburban office building, a parade, an outdoor concert or a home.

And yet, the NRA’s cocky leaders and its merry members know that no matter how obscene the assault to the senses and decency, or the age and vulnerability of the disfigured and dismembered, America may, for a passing moment, decry the grief and loss, but this sick, paralysed nation won’t do anything about it.

It didn’t do anything after 26 children and teachers were annihilated at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012. It didn’t do anything 10 years later after 21 children and teachers were annihilated at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, while an army of dithering police officers stood by.

Why would America be moved to do anything meaningful now?

Mass shootings have become, in effect, an NRA-sanctioned American pastime – a grim phenomenon peculiar to America played out again and again in the grotesque name of “freedom”.

Oh, how I hope the NRA and its rabid supporters are rankled by my indictment. The truth is meant to prick. Like enlightened Americans, I am offended by the failure of craven politicians to challenge the NRA’s hegemony – via the gun – over life and death.

Instead, they make the same sombre speeches at funerals to express their solidarity with, and sympathy for, those left behind. When the glare and attention inevitably subside, the bereaved go on, as best they can, to recover and rebuild what remains of their shattered lives. Alone.

This time, the dispensable “victims” were cheerful couples dancing in a ballroom on a Saturday night in Monterey, California where they joined hands to move to the music and celebrate the Lunar new year. The other dead were humble farm workers in Half Moon Bay, California trying to earn an honest living picking mushrooms to pay the bills and provide for their families.

Their names and histories were reduced, instantly, to a number, forgotten by everyone but the people who loved them. Three crime scenes. Eighteen dead in less than 48 hours.

They were not casualties of a “tragedy” – a word that implies their sudden, cruel deaths were the product of some unexpected misfortune or happenstance.

No, they were not. Like all the other killings, in all the other sad, scarred places across America, the assassins planned their executions, to deprive their quarry not only of peace, but life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness enshrined in the Declaration of Independence that Americans hold so dear.

The news conferences soon followed. Another police chief in blue said that “all the facts” were being gathered. Meanwhile, the chief shared some early “details” of what had happened, who it had happened to and why the shooter may have done what he did.

Another politician said that while the community was reeling from shock and incredulity at the “senseless” slaughter, it was united in mourning and resolve.

Another “hero” emerged from the madness to be feted for saving lives. Another silver lining to another massacre.

Another TV star arrived from New York or Atlanta to report the ritual “live” and interview the hero and the police chiefs and politicians – who repeated what they had said at their news conferences.

The “debate” and “conversations” that America’s recurring spasms of lethal violence are supposed to trigger are a useless mirage. The prescriptions to prevent these “deaths of despair” are made in earnest, but rarely enacted. The calls to ban or limit the reach of guns that fire bullets at a high rate, of course, go unheeded.

In America, a gun is more valuable than a human life. The NRA has made sure of that.

The foul killings in California have already receded into the rear view, overtaken by the awful images of Memphis police officers brutally beating a Black man to death with their boots, fists and batons.

The old outrage is replaced by a new outrage. The police and politicians hold more news conferences far from California. The caravan of TV stars has joined them.

The NRA is, as always, happy.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.