by Kate Harveston
It’s been over two months since the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman High School in Parkland, Florida. While much has happened in and around our nation since that day, substantial gun control is not on that list. And while President Trump hosted a listening session in which he heard the concerns of the Parkland survivors and nebulously promised to “do something,” pushing for gun reform has failed to appear on his agenda.
Unfortunately, this has been the status quo for the past three presidents, ever since Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris walked through the doors of Columbine High School that one fateful day in 1999 and ushered in a new era of violence and fear. For his part, President Trump has faced a unique pressure from his constituency — many of whom maintain that the entire event is a mirage of smoke and mirrors, of crisis actors and remote-control helicopters provided by the cable news networks, and many others who are avid exercisers of their second-amendment rights.
Caught at the crossroads of purpose, our president stands. At one fork, the children — survivors of a suburban apocalypse. On the other, the NRA and their associated lobbies, the men and women fundamentally responsible for his ascension. And now, for the first time since February, our President has taken a step.
This Friday, our newest President will be speaking at the NRA’s National Jamboree in Dallas — ironic, perhaps, if you ask John F. Kennedy. This moment is heightened further, for it was in this very city in 1966 that Charles Whitman scaled the University of Texas clock tower with a duffel bag of semiautomatic rifles — the legality of which are still being questioned in the highest echelons of government. This was early, three decades before the patterns of violence took over the schools. It was a premature harbinger of the bloodshed to come.
No one knows exactly what the President will say this Friday. However, we do have some previous reference to go by: Mr. Trump has spoken at the same annual meeting for the past four years, even before his dreams of political office were realized. If the previous speeches are any indication of the one forthcoming, it will be clear which path Mr. Trump has decided to take. A spirited defense of the second amendment would stand contrary to his promise to the families and survivors of the massacre.
While various GOP candidates traditionally benefit from the support of gun advocate groups, Mr. Trump’s case is something of an outlier. During his 2016 campaign, he received unprecedented funding from the gun lobby, exceeding any previous instance of NRA funding for past presidential candidates. During one interview, Mr. Trump infamously spoke about his habit of carrying concealed weapons, saying “I will tell you, I feel much better being armed.”
While it’s not fair that we should assume the contents of this year’s speech, some indicators are concerning, at the very least.
One might remember, for instance, during the very listening session with the Parkland survivors, when President Trump appeared with scrawled notes in the palm of his hand. Some of these encouraged him to express sympathy, others that reminded him to say the very words that now seem likely to fly contrary to his upcoming speech. The President’s speeches, which are often clearly unscripted and lengthy, contrast sharply with the subdued and somber mood of the post-massacre session.
Which President will attend the meeting on Friday? Perhaps this is an attempt at mending, at bringing together a nation divided on a fundamental and long-debated constitutional topic. Perhaps Trump, whose ties to the NRA are undeniable and close, will choose to use that power for good, and be the very emissary the nation needs to institute some semblance of gun control legislation in an age of great violence.
Then again, that would require him to put the wellbeing of the American people above his own wallet.
This writer’s not getting her hopes up.