Froma Harrop: Politics and the Michigan mass shooting
We've been here before: shocked calls for an even modest tightening of gun laws and Republicans killing almost all efforts to do so.
And so some angry, mentally ill person decides to shoot random human beings for no particular reason. Although mass killings have become commonplace — the one at Michigan State University was the 67th this year, and we're only in February — something feels different this time.
It's not the number of victims, three dead in this case. The 2017 attack in Las Vegas massacred 60 and wounded over 400. Nor was it the nature of the victims. These were young people with a future but not elementary school kids, 20 of whom were mowed down in Newtown, Connecticut -- 19 in Uvalde, Texas.
This one has political ramifications. It occurred in Michigan, a Midwest state that last November reelected its Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, and turned control of both the state Senate and House to Democrats.
One must believe that right-wing threats of gun violence moved a lot of voters to change teams in Lansing. There was the unforgettable visual of creeps waving semi-automatics on the steps of the state Capitol over one of the governor's COVID policies. Then there were the head cases shooting off their guns in the woods as they plotted to kidnap Whitmer.
Especially chilling about the outrage at Michigan State was the alert sent by campus security to "run, hide or fight." The horror grew more intense with news that some of the college students had already survived the terror of the 2021 Oxford High School shooting in which four students died. In sum, there are 20-year-old kids who have sheltered in place for two separate mass school shootings.
The Michigan State killings took place on the five-year anniversary of the Parkland, Florida, massacre that left 17 students dead. As tearful commemorations were held, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was campaigning as the most gun-loving Republican evidently vying to become the Republican candidate for president. He's pushing legislation to let Florida residents carry concealed firearms in public without a permit, never mind training.
The Michigan State gunman was arrested in 2019 for carrying a concealed weapon without a permit and had to forfeit the gun. DeSantis apparently doesn't want to inconvenience killers like him by requiring a permit.
Florida gun deaths have risen nearly 19% from 2015 to 2020. In 2020, 13.7 Floridians out of every 100,000 died from gun violence. By contrast, the number of gun deaths per 100,000 was only 5.3 in New York. Hawaii posted the lowest and best number, 3.4.
How many times have we heard that the vast majority of Americans, most Republicans included, want at least universal background checks for all purchases? They want red-flag laws to remove guns from those deemed to be a danger to themselves or others. And majorities want bans on certain weapons of war.
Say what you want about Donald Trump, he's showed a modicum of guts in entertaining some gun control measures after the Parkland tragedy. Sadly, he wimped out after the NRA bared a few teeth at him.
We've been here before: shocked calls for an even modest tightening of gun laws and Republicans killing almost all efforts to do so. No doubt letting demented 18-year-olds obtain weapons more deadly than those used in the Vietnam War somehow fits into DeSantis' cracked culture war campaign.
But it's increasingly hard to see how he or any other politician is going to overcome growing public dismay at the crazy gun violence now stoking fears among parents, students, grocery shoppers, concert attendees and churchgoers -- as well as drug gangs. More and more Americans know an innocent who has been shaken or killed by criminal or mentally ill gunmen.
Michigan may have been an early indicator of a voter rebellion.
Froma Harrop is a nationally syndicated columnist whose work is regularly published in the Grand Forks Herald.