In the latest installment of Conservatives Propose Solutions That Would Do Absolute Jack Shit to Stop School Shootings, Washington Post and MSNBC contributor and radio host Hugh Hewitt said on Monday that schools should ban kids from wearing trench coats in order to stop school shootings.
Per Media Matters, emphasis mine:
They are not saying this killer, who we should not name, used shotgun and pistol, not any kind of high-caliber repeating weapon, not a semi-automatic weapon. Just didn’t do it. It’s a — in many ways, this spanner thrown into their rhetoric of people who believe in universal background checks, wouldn’t have had any impact on this. On magazines, wouldn’t have had any impact on this. At close range, we discovered shotguns are as lethal.
To the teachers and administrators out there, the trench coat is kind of a giveaway. You might just say, “No more trench coats.” The creepy people, make a list, check it twice.
Hewitt’s comments follow this tweet from over the weekend by Bill Mitchell, a fellow Trump supporter and a guy who looks pretty much exactly like Hewitt:
While Santa Fe shooting suspect Dimitrios Pagourtzis was reportedly known to wear a trench coat, this idea of what a school shooter looks like can be traced to the rumors that came out of the immediate aftermath of the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School. Many of those rumors turned out to not be true, as Westword reported in 2012:
[Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the Columbine shooters] didn’t dress Goth. The so-called Trenchcoat Mafia was a red herring from day one. There’s nothing in the official record that suggests anyone regarded Eric Harris as the smartest boy in school — other than Eric Harris.
As for other myths — about the two killers being outcasts, persecuted, more gay-bashed than gay-bashing — they were all exploded years ago, here and here and here, among other places. Although bullying certainly existed at Columbine, just like at other schools, and Harris and Klebold may have been targets long before they became tolerated albeit not widely popular seniors (and quasi-bullies themselves), it’s alarmingly simplistic to make the kind of cause-effect argument Klein presents for what happened at Columbine.
An actual, real-world indicator that someone is going to commit a mass shooting isn’t whether they wear a trench coat or suffer from way-too-generic “mental illness,” but rather whether or not they have a history of domestic violence. On Sunday, the Los Angeles Times reported that one of Pagourtzis’ victims was a girl who repeatedly denied his advances. Stoneman Douglas shooter Nikolas Cruz also reportedly was abusive towards an ex-girlfriend and threatened to kill her new boyfriend, and his mother filed police reports alleging that he assaulted her. And in a March shooting in Maryland, 16-year old Jaelynn Willey was murdered by her ex-boyfriend at school.
But when conservative politicians and pundits push every stupid idea that’s ever fleetingly occupied a space in their minds as The Way to End School Shootings—from banning trench coats to creating a fire safety nightmare to arming teachers to learning CPR to teaching kids to just run at a guy with a killing machine—it’s an attempt to try to stop people from coming to the conclusion that we should put more restrictions on the tools which enable someone to injure and kill dozens of people in a matter of minutes. These suggestions aren’t offered sincerely, and they shouldn’t be treated as such.
The truth is that conservatives in the media and in government know what the problem is; they’ve just decided that they’d prefer unrestricted access to guns over the lives of innocent people, including children. Saying that out loud, however, gives away the game.