As President Donald Trump prepared to address Americans after the massacre/horrific carnage/charnel house/slaughter/mass murder (pick an overused term) in Las Vegas, mainstream cable TV anchors and reporters — using that somber, pained tone they all adopt on such occasions — seemed united on one subject: this is not a time for a "political conversation."
"Many people," observed CNN's John King in a particularly imbecilic TV moment, "have lost their ability to set politics aside and listen to the president and just be Americans."
Yes, indeed, chirped anchor Poppy Harlow, somberly. This is the time for the president to be the "comforter-in-chief." Everybody nodded.
Well, one suspects that if the shooter's name had been Mohammed, it would have been a different tune.
A 'lone wolf'
Because we've sort of been through this before, and there's not much left to say that's both original and permissible.
To be clear: lone-wolf Paddock opened fire with a machine-gun – a machine-gun – something designed to kill as many soldiers as possible as efficiently and quickly as possible. It fires a steady stream of between 700 and 800 rounds a minute. American gun nuts, who, we can safely assume, all voted for Donald Trump, love the things.
(Yes, this is going to be a political conversation).
Most Americans think machine-guns are one of the few weapons that are still illegal in their country. In some states, they are. And federal law does prohibit a civilian from owning one, or at least one manufactured before 1986, because, what, the pre-1986 ones are less deadly than the 1987 ones?
Doesn't matter. Just know that in Nevada, the next gambler walking into the casino where you're enjoying a drink might be angry, or crazy, and carrying a machine-gun. Legally.
Furthermore – sorry, more politics here – Republicans in Congress are currently considering a bill that would roll back restrictions on silencers.
Had that law already been in place before last night, instead of hearing that loud budda-budda-budda of machine-gun fire over the country music, a sound that allowed them to locate the shooter remarkably quickly, police on the scene could have heard pffhht-pffhhht-pffhht, or nothing at all, as bodies were torn apart around them.
This silencer law, pushed by the indifferent-to-mass-murder lobbyists at the National Rifle Association (NRA), carries a title that would have made Orwell smirk: Sportsmen's Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act.
Because, of course, there's nothing a good sportsman likes better than silencer that he can screw onto the end of his machine-gun.
Actually, the gun lobby hates the term silencer. Stupid liberals who want to take away Americans' freedoms use that word. Heritage sportsmen prefer the term "suppressor," which they feel is more accurate, because gunfire is never truly silenced.
- Brother of Las Vegas gunman 'completely dumbfounded' by rampage
"It isn't a silencer because it still makes sound, but what it does is cuts the percentage of the noise down to make shooting sports a little nicer for people's hearing," says Republican Congressman Doug LaMalfa.
Nicer for people's hearing. He actually said that.
My guess is police don't look at it that way, but police in America, who have to deal with piles of corpses after events like yesterday's, have clouded judgment and are always whining and carping and disrespecting the Second Amendment rights of ordinary Americans who want to amass arsenals like Stephen Paddock's.
Which brings us to Donald Trump's speech, which John King pronounced "pitch perfect."
Unlike Barack Obama, who had the poor taste to bring up the easy availability of guns to mass murderers after Adam Lanza murdered 20 Connecticut schoolchildren at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012, Trump, a self-described champion of gun rights, entirely avoided the topics of machine-guns and silencers. (Trump has actually reversed an Obama-era regulation that would've made it more difficult for mentally ill people to purchase firearms. Make some sense of that.)
The NRA could have written his address.
He called the murders "pure evil," which would seem obvious, then spent a lot of time talking about Christian scriptures and God, and the need for everyone to pray.
He told his nation that "we can take solace knowing that even the darkest space can be brightened by a single light." No explanation of what that single light might be, unless he means the relentless efforts by the NRA and their Republican allies to ensure that everyone is armed.
You know, if only everyone in that country music audience had had a machine-gun, too, they could have lit up the enemy instead of dying like sheep, etc., etc. Because the best answer to a bad guy with a gun is a crowd of good guys with guns. That may sound flip, but it is literally, word-for-word NRA logic, usually deployed a few days after a shooting atrocity.
Oh, also, Trump is ordering that "our great flag be flown at half-staff," which sure sounded like a glancing reference to those black football players who insist on kneeling during the national anthem to protest gun violence by police. They'd damned well better stop kneeling after this, folks.
Actually, although I doubt it, Trump may just have been taking a practical view. Barack Obama said that if nothing could be done about guns after Sandy Hook, nothing could ever be done.
Lawmakers — the same ones to call shooters "cowards" — then proceeded under pressure to loosen gun laws in the months and years that followed. All under the merciful gaze of the God invoked today by Donald Trump. The God that constantly blesses the United States of America.