The Sunday Magazine·The Sunday Edition

Why the U.S. will never fix its gun problem, even after Sandy Hook and Orlando - Michael's essay

"Mass shootings in the United States are as American as Sunday afternoon baseball, the Second Amendment to the Constitution, the National Rifle Association."
Art and Diana Ramirez of Austin with their pistols in custom-made holsters during an open carry rally at the Texas State Capitol on January 1, 2016 in Austin, Texas. (Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)

From the Friday night to the end of Monday this past Memorial Day weekend in Chicago, 64 people were shot, six of them fatally.

Twelve of the victims were shot in cars. Eleven were shot on sidewalks. Four while sitting on their front porch.

Fifty two of the victims were black, 11 of them Hispanic, one victim was white. Eight were women.

We scramble over bloody terrain looking for, if not answers, at least connections.- Michael Enright

As the world recoils in horror at Orlando, it is important to remember a couple of things about our closest neighbour.

First, mass shootings in the United States are as American as Sunday afternoon baseball, the Second Amendment to the Constitution, the National Rifle Association.

Secondly, mass killings are so familiar, so common that they have become ritualized, stitched into the fabric of American life.

The writer Adam Gopnik calls them "impulse massacres."

This is, after all, a country with an estimated 277-million guns scattered throughout the population.

Chicago Police crime tape is displayed at the scene where a 16-year-old boy was shot in the head and killed and another 18-year-old man was shot and wounded on the 7300 block of South Sangamon Street on April 25, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. Over 1,000 people have been shot in Chicago since the beginning of the year. ( Joshua Lott/Getty Images)

The liturgy in the aftermath of the horror rarely changes; politicians talk about "thoughts and prayers" and families.    

Television networks surround the scene — the school, the church, the nightclub, the army base, the college campus — with sound trucks and satellite dishes.

Traumatized victims are besieged and beleaguered by anchors and reporters.

The president tries to hold his emotions in check. He has given seven State of the Union addresses, but sixteen public laments to the nation.

He wonders what kind of country Americans want.

In solemn session, legislators solemnly stand in a minute of silence.

Although this time, tradition was broken in the House of Representatives when some members refused to take part.

Said Democratic Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut: "I will not attend one more Moment of Silence on the floor. Our silence does not honour the victims. It mocks them."

Jim Himes (D-CT) speaks at a press conference held in the Old Judiciary Room of the Connecticut State Capitol November 5, 2008 in Hartford, Connecticut. He walked out of a moment of silence for the victims of Orlando on June 13, later writing, "If the House of Representatives had a solitary moral fiber, even a wisp of human empathy, we would spend moments not in silence, but screaming at painful volume the names of the 49 whose bodies were ripped apart in Orlando, and the previous victims and the ones before them." (Christopher Capozziello/Getty Images)

The massacre in Orlando has raised a number of uncomfortable speculations about violence in the United States.

Was Omar Mateen a willing agent of jihadists, or did he simply reflect the prevalent, persistent and ongoing homophobia in the US?

The fact that he had abused and battered his first wife raised the disturbing issue of violence against women, again common occurrences across the country.

On the day 49 people were slaughtered in Orlando, a man in New Mexico apparently killed his wife and four children.

We scramble over bloody terrain looking for, if not answers, at least connections.

Can the gestation of Omar Mateen's murderous fury be discovered in the physical abuse he rained down on his first wife?

Has the effectiveness of national intelligence agencies in the U.S. been compromised?

Has violent anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-Hispanic rhetoric created a climate of fear tinctured with anger against The Other?

Has the willing impotence of the Republican Party before its political overseer, the National Rifle Association, turned the country into a shooting gallery?

On this week's program, we explore gun violence and Orlando from a number of different perspectives. Click the play button above to hear Michael's essay, and follow this link to hear his conversation with Rebecca Solnit and Andrew Solomon about the culture of violence in the United States. 


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