In an address to the nation Thursday morning, President Donald Trump unequivocally offered up any assistance teachers, students, and families affected by the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, yesterday might need—except gun control, literally the one thing the nation actually needs at this moment.
“Our entire nation, with one heavy heart, is praying for the victims and their families,” Trump said. “To every parent, teacher, and child who is hurting so badly, we are here for you, whatever you need, whatever we can do to ease your pain.”
He went on to say things about our “one American family,” to urge troubled kids to talk to the police or a faith leader if they feel alone, and to promise to tackle “the difficult issue of mental health.” Trump also said he’s making plans to visit Parkland.
These words are meaningless, and they feel particularly rich coming from a president as relentlessly divisive as Donald Trump, who received a staggering $30.3 million from the National Rifle Association in 2016. (By comparison, the gun lobbying group spent a paltry $12.5 million on Mitt Romney four years earlier.)
That was a big money gamble for the NRA and so far, it’s paid off in spades. We’re just seven weeks into 2018, and the Parkland massacre—which left 17 people dead—is already the 18th school shooting of the year, according to ABC. Meanwhile, Congress won’t even ban the “bump stocks” which helped Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock kill 58 and wound another 851.
The gun lobby ensured that even that minuscule concession in the fight to keep weapons of mass death out of the hands of deranged people failed, and there’s no reason to think anything will change after Parkland. Instead, there will be sober, renewed calls for gun control—even from teens whose friends were killed—and those calls will be met with empty rhetoric of the kind Trump delivered today. His message was clear: You can have anything you want, just not gun control.