Beto O’Rourke found a way to make the tragic elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, all about himself just 24 hours after the incident.
While updating the public on the tragedy on Wednesday, the Texas gubernatorial candidate attempted to outdo his rival, Gov. Greg Abbott. O’Rourke’s performance, which included bursts into the room to shout about guns and parade for the cameras, was so grotesquely narcissistic that he was unfit to be considered a serious person, let alone a candidate for high office.
But, sadly, his emotional outburst reflects where we are in dealing with the scourge of mass shootings: a viciously partisan stalemate.
Gun control advocates, high on their own moral virtue, demonize Second Amendment supporters as monsters incapable of empathy. Besieged defenders of the constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms dig in and refuse to budge. The rest of the world is stunned by America’s insanity.
“Can we not be a nation that can stand together for at least a day or a week or a month, my gosh, to put these families first,” exclaimed an anguished Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, after O’Rourke interrupted the press conference.
“We live in a time where people are at each other’s throats, whether it’s on the Internet or Oscar’s stage or two coaches arguing or the political world or the media world. Who are we as an American people? Who are we?”
Patrick encapsulated the despair that any patriot feels. If gun control is the goal, rancor and finger-pointing are futile, as evidenced by the ten years since the Sandy Hook school massacre.
There should be common ground for politicians to act in good faith, with polls showing that almost all Americans, whether they own a gun or not, agree that background checks should be strengthened and the mentally ill should be barred from purchasing firearms.
It makes sense to prohibit people under the age of 21 from purchasing semi-automatic weapons, as proposed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, given that the majority of school shooters are teenagers. The Uvalde shooter was 18 years old, and the Sandy Hook shooter was 20.
According to Statista research, the majority of school shootings between 1970 and June 16, 2020, were committed by 16- and 17-year-olds. After the age of 18, the numbers begin to fall precipitously.
Keeping firearms out of the hands of emotionally disturbed young men until their brains mature could save lives. However, as with all gun control measures, it may be unconstitutional. The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled this month that a California ban on semiautomatic weapons for adults under the age of 21 was unconstitutional.
We need to be realistic about what new laws can accomplish, and it is harmful for Democrats like Chuck Schumer to raise false expectations by claiming that 400 million guns will magically vanish if monstrous Republicans stop being obstructionist.
That’s also Joe Biden’s line. His initial instincts seemed to sound in his reaction to the Ulvade tragedy on Tuesday night.
His opening and closing remarks were appropriately respectful and mournful, a president with personal experience with grief asking the nation to pray for murdered children and their families.
But the core of his speech had a completely different tone. The man who claimed at his inauguration that his goal was to unite the country went out of his way to exacerbate the same bitter partisan divides that brought us here.
Joe Biden began by empathizing with the grieving parents. “To lose a child is like having a piece of your soul ripped away.” He also quoted a scripture, “The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”
So many crushed spirits, he said. “So, tonight, I ask the nation to pray for them, to give the parents and siblings the strength in the darkness they feel right now.”
He should have stopped there because what he had said was perfect, a salve for a nation in mourning. But then he turned nasty and raised his voice in anger, the only emotion that appears to animate him.
“When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?” began a tirade complete with his old joke about deer in Kevlar vests and vague appeals for action.
“I am sick and tired of it. We have to act.”
He blamed his political opponents by saying, “We need to let you know that we will not forget.”
It is not clear what exactly that means.