Seventeen people dressed as angels stand on Sunday at the memorial for those killed in a shooting on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, US, on February 14. Despite it being home to a 20th of the world’s population, America carries 40% of all guns, says the writer, adding that they lead to 30 000 deaths ever year. 
Picture: Terry Spencer/AP
IT IS the grand charade. Each time there is a mass shooting in the US, there is public outrage and prayer, and then it is all forgotten until the next shooting. In the past six years, there have been 1600 mass shootings in the US, involving 1800 deaths and close to 6500 injuries. Nothing has changed.

In response to the latest incident at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida where 17 schoolchildren were slaughtered by a white gunman on February 14, Trump suggested teachers arm themselves in a remark that underlines the level of sheer lunacy over the question of gun violence in the US.

The core issues remain the same. Far too many guns, extraordinarily weak laws, endless attempts to distract and blame “mental illness” and a refusal to face the problem. More people die from guns in the US than any other so-called First World country. Despite it being home to a 20th of the world’s population, it carries 40% of all guns.

This is not normal. Guns steal up to 30000 lives each year in the US. This is nothing less than a pandemic, a destabilising scourge to rival corruption in Nigeria or South Africa; the threat of public violence is so likely, it is surely enough for the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan or Brazil to issue travel alerts for its citizens.

The government has long been captured by gun lobbyists. It makes the Guptas look like penny-ante horse traders. State capture of the US is so complete that mainstream discussion in the US rarely contemplates serious solutions. “You come into our schools. You’re gonna be dead. It’s going to be fast,” Trump said.

In addition to arming teachers, he suggested more background checks. There have been other suggestions, like increasing the age of gun-buyers from 18 to 21. Others say there needs to be more research into the reasons why people reach for their weapons when they are angry, low, hungry or bored.

But adding more laws or background checks would be sweet endeavours if this was Nambia (not to be confused with our neighbour, Namibia). And finding out why people’s rage or illness often ends with spent live rounds and spilt blood is yet another distraction.

Given that the US has so many guns, and no other so-called developed country on the planet has such a gun-death ratio, the issue is self-explanatory: there are just too many guns in the US.

If the US wants to fix this issue, there needs to be confiscation of guns, with or without compensation.This is unlikely. And Trump’s utterances will take centre stage. But to pin this on Trump to solve is foolish.

His ideas are merely the latest mutation of a disease that has gripped most American presidents and governments, be it Conservative or Liberal, Republican or Democrat for decades.

Using tactics of intimidation and threats to cut campaign funding, the National Rifle Association and its army of lobbyists, not unlike the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, wield tremendous power on the entire US government.

Remember, this is an issue that pre-dates modern political rivalries. Guns are the everlasting pop culture image of American history. This is a country built by guns - be it the murder of indigenous people, or in rearing cattle using cowboys and militia for personal protection, or in the policing of minorities.

And it is African-Americans who remain the biggest victims of gun violence in the country. The violence meted out to white boys and girls via mass shootings is less than 2% of the overall killings caused by guns. The outrage of the past half a decade is for the lives of mostly white folks, killed by other white mass murderers. Given the scant regard for immigrants, Muslims, and African-Americans and how they might live and die is not important.

And still, if laws cannot change despite the murder of their own, what chance do people of colour have when it comes to justice or equality?

Apparently Americans are coming around. Students have been mobilising vociferously over the past week, pushing hard at the US government and demanding wide-reaching changes.

Later next month, there are mass protests and strikes planned. Under the banner of March for Our Lives, a group organised by survivors of the Florida school shooting, hundreds of thousands are set to walk in DC and in other parts of the country, demanding #NeverAgain.

According to Gun Down America, an organisation lobbying for fewer guns in the country, 61% of Americans feel that guns should be harder to access. Another 80% support a government buy-back programme for assault weapons. I certainly wouldn’t hold my breath.

It is inconceivable to see gun laws changing in the near future. Not with the Republicans controlling Congress and certainly not with Trump at the helm.

It is also unclear how long the protest action will last.

The shootings won’t end. Not any time soon. Not until ordinary Americans force their government to act otherwise.