If there is one thing that Mr Trump has got right, it is likely to be the conclusion that mental stability does have something to do with the appalling statistics of gun violence in the US. Unfortunately the President may not realise that even the mental stability of the policy makers may be a contributing factor.
Mass killings like the recent Florida school event are merely one dimension of a wider American crisis. The school deaths are minor when compared to all other forms of gun crime. Even Mr Trump should realize that other first world countries have much better systems for dealing with such a threat. A rational approach would be to identify and quantify the dangers and deal systematically with the most obvious first. Unfortunately it turns out when it comes to regulating arms, Mr Trump prefers a system of appeasement of interested parties, disguised by bluster and fine sounding but what all too often turn out to be empty promises.
A good part of the viewing segment of the world has already watched Mr Trump rise to promise to address the gun problem. He chose the stage at the Republican National convention in July 2016. What was it he said? “The crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon come to an end. Beginning on January 20th 2017, safety will be restored.” Then to underline his determination, when he took power there was his famous end to the “American carnage” promise in the acceptance speech which he assured his audience would be starting right then and there. Perhaps those among his audience new to his rhetoric should be forgiven for assuming he would not have made the promise unless he had some grasp of the reality of what would be needed to fix the problem.
Those relatively unfamiliar with Mr Trump’s past promises probably assumed he was intending to follow through with actions which would match his prior political statements. For example in the year 2000, as he considered running for president, he wrote in his book, “The America We Deserve,” that “I generally oppose gun control, but I support the ban on assault weapons and I also support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun.” He added, “With today’s internet technology we should be able to tell within 72 hours if a potential gun owner has a record.”
Again his audience might be excused for thinking he meant what he said and assumed that this would affect his intended legislation. In the event, Donald Trump, ever the cynical deal-maker, noted that the National Rifle Association offered $30 million to the Republican Presidential campaign. Last April he acknowledged the NRA support and said he would make sure they were remembered! What that meant in practice was that both Mr Trump and the GOP would resist any move to allow any substantive legislation limiting the sale of guns.
From what Donald Trump had previously said (and by implication had promised) it was presumed he would work on the principle that if some are too deranged to be allowed access to the purchase of dangerous weaponry one logical consequence would be in denying such people access to purchase. It turned out the POTUS was thinking rather more about the NRA support. What we actually saw was that when Trump came to power he actually reversed legislation President Obama had introduced to add the names of about 75, 000 people to the watch list of those deemed to be likely to be a risk to the community.
This would not matter if he had showed he had developed alternative legislation which made a visible difference to the grim statistics of gun violence. Each time there has been another mass killing the President and the GOP have assured the public that now is not the time to consider new legislation. Now they are doing it again. So when exactly will they act?
Unfortunately for the President, gun violence is rather easy to measure and if Mr Trump knew how to deal with the situation at the beginning of his Presidential term thus far there is absolutely no sign of it in the subsequent statistics. He says gun violence in schools is his number one priority. Well then, how come the once a week average school shooting has changed to 18 incidents in the first six weeks of 2018? Some 11,686 gun deaths were recorded in 2017, an increase of 12 per cent on Obama’s year in 2016, including 273 in mass shootings. Remember Mr Trump said at the beginning of 2016, the carnage stops right now. Putting it bluntly, it only got worse.
The US firearms homicide rate has continued to be far higher than elsewhere among the richer nations. For example the US has of the order of 16 times that of the rate recorded in Germany, and six times that of that in neighbouring Canada. It may be unwelcome news to Mr Trump and his supporters but the cold truth is that countries that ban or restrict access to guns, such as Australia, have many fewer gun fatalities.
I am guessing, or at least hoping, that the US has no serious lead in the proportion of dangerous and deranged potential perpetrators of gun violence. We can but hope that the US now has rather more sensible lawmakers in the wings than those currently unprepared to challenge the President’s current erratic and thus far demonstrably ineffective notion of how best to deal with the US gun problem.