On Wednesday, Americans were forced to witness another very horrific — yet very familiar — sight: A young man opened fired at Majority Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, killing at least 17 students and faculty members.
The suspect, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, was kicked out of the school for "disciplinary reasons" and reportedly had a history of posing with guns on social media, killing animals, and domestic violence, according to the Boston Globe.
Unfortunately, this is standard: A (usually) white male with a history of violence, mental illness, and disturbing behaviour is able to get dozens of powerful firearms and unlimited ammo and walk into a school, a church, a cinema or a music festival and massacre people. In this case, the FBI was reportedly even warned about Cruz's behaviour last year.
But on Thursday morning, rather than offer a thoughtful comment to the victims of the shooting or open up a discussion about how this tragedy could've been prevented had Cruz not had easy access to a AR-15 rifle, US President Donald Trump essentially blamed the victims.
"So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behaviour," Trump tweeted. "Neighbours and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!" In a press conference, Trump said he would be meeting with state law enforcement and attorney generals to discuss how to make schools safer. He offered up no ideas on how that would be done besides that we need to "answer hate with love."
Trump's gaslighting is particularly vile here for several reasons: 17 people are dead despite the fact authorities were appropriately warned about Cruz and Trump himself made it easier for those with a history of mental illness to purchase firearms.
"As a mum of five children, I'm outraged that yet another community has been traumatised by gun violence. This is at least the 18th school shooting this year alone, which is difficult to fathom. And yet, it's our current reality in America," Shannon Watts, Founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, told Refinery29. "It isn't the responsibility of students to keep themselves safe — it's the responsibility of lawmakers to fix our lax gun laws. Gun violence is preventable. Lawmakers blaming victims for their own failures is repulsive. Americans know who's really culpable."
Trump is doing what he's done many times before: Blaming the victim, not addressing the root of the bad behaviour, then offering platitudes of "thoughts and prayers" — but no real plan of action.
Trump may have said that he wants to make schools safer, but in reality his party is actively trying to make gun laws even looser, despite warnings from law enforcement officials that more guns on the streets will only put everyone at an even greater risk.
In the days and weeks that follow, Trump and the GOP will quote Bible scripture, they will say now is not the time to talk about gun control and to not politicise the tragedy.
The one thing they won't do, however, is be honest with the American people that they won't be taking meaningful action to curb gun violence.