In the wake of national tragedies there is always a battle in the media to attach a particular narrative to it. In the wake of the awful shooting in Charleston, South Carolina last night that saw nine African Americans shot in a church, you can bet that a huge frenzy of blame assignment will take place as activists attempt to frame the story in a way that fits their agenda.
It is often an ugly spectacle that reveals more about the narcissism of media commentators than anything else, and we can expect to hear about white privilege, racism, sexism, poverty, mental health etc etc. Many of these narrative will contain elements of truth, but none will fully capture the complex reasons why a young man took a gun and destroyed a community of people he had nothing to do with.
There is however, one particular narrative that fits all gun massacres we hear about in the news - an inconvenient factor present in the 11,208 firearm deaths in America every year, and a hard truth America must come to terms with if it wants to stop the needles violence plaguing its inner cities.
And it is this: The Charleston Church massacre happened because of America's gun laws.
There is a reason gun massacres do not occur on a regular basis in other industrialized countries around the world, and it is because you can't buy guns at the local store in every town, and don't have a right to own military grade weapons in your house. In South Carolina, you don't need a permit to cary long guns or hand guns, don't need to register your firearm, and don't have any restrictions on magazine capacity. In fact, there aren't actually any specified age restrictions for purchasing a gun, and the law permits non-residents to buy rifles or shotguns in the state.
This point isn't very radical, isn't very original and will not be very popular, but it is worth repeating again and again and again and again. Minor laws to further restrict the use of firearms won't have any meaningful impact on the astonishing number of gun crimes in America, and it is high time the country got to grips with this. How many more massacres like this are Americans willing to accept? How many more small children need to die by semi-automatic gunfire? Is there anything that can happen to roll back the enormous power of the NRA and the hardened mindset that more guns are needed to prevent gun crime?
Six innocent women and three men lost their lives in South Carolina last night. It appears highly likely that the killer was suffering from some sort of mental illness, and the massacre is being treated as a hate crime. But the truth remains: he could not have killed nine people without a gun. It may not be politically sensitive to talk about this right now - and it never really is - but it is a conversation that needs to happen only because so many more lives are at stake.
(Image via ABC news)