Written by Hannah Dunleavy

In The News

Donkeys and Elephants

When it comes to the age-old problem of (not really having any) gun control in the US, thoughts and prayers aren’t anywhere near as effective as action. Not that the Republicans can admit that. It’s the elephant in the Elephants’ room, says Hannah Dunleavy.

Mike Huckabee

Illustration by Louise Boulter.

Imagine if you will, that the law allowed all of us over the age of 18 to own an umbrella, the tip of which had been dipped in ricin or polonium or whatever it is the men in black use to kill people nowadays.

We all exercised our right to have a poison-tipped umbrella – just in case, you understand. So that if someone broke into the house, we could wave it in their face and they would back off. In theory. Provided they didn’t have a longer umbrella.

But then imagine that’s not what everyone uses the poison-tipped umbrella for and we started indiscriminately jabbing people who pissed us off. And our kids kept getting hold of them and accidentally jabbing each other. And our pets brushed up against them and killed themselves, or us, or the guy who’d come round to read the meter. And then every so often, someone went into a bank, or a school, and jabbed a whole lot of people at one time. You might think, at some point, we might fathom that some people probably aren’t to be trusted with a poison-tipped umbrella.

“Should any of the candidates say a single thing about gun reform, they’d be better off literally shooting themselves in the foot, which shouldn’t be a problem with the number of fucking guns they’ve got.”

Anyway, another fortnight, another fresh gun outrage from across the Atlantic, as nine people are killed by a man with many guns in a community college in Oregon.

Now, this poses an enormous problem to candidates in the Republican Primary. In the Democratic race, our contestants are free to pretty much say what they feel, be it calling for reform (Hillary Clinton) or pointing out that all those thoughts and prayers aren’t half as effective as actions (Martin O’Malley).

But for the Elephants in the room it is the elephant in the room, about which nothing worthwhile must ever be said. Should any of the remaining candidates say a single thing about gun reform, it would be GAME OVER for their election. They’d be better off literally shooting themselves in the foot, which shouldn’t be a problem with the number of fucking guns they’ve got.

However, the closer you are to the head of the leaders’ pack, the more likely to have to say something. So what do they say? Well, after six months of covering the election (during which time there has been a mass shooting in a church, one in a school, two people shot live on air and THOUSANDS of other gun-related incidents, including dozens in schools), I think I’ve got the strategy sussed:

Shrug your shoulders and say “shit happens”

It was Jeb! Bush’s turn to play the ‘what you gonna do?’ card, with his assessment of the deadliest mass shooting in Oregon’s history with the statement: “Stuff happens.” Exactly as you would if nine people had been killed by a bridge collapse or some eejit kept a tiger and let it loose in a school playground. What you gonna do? Nothing, probably.

Question whether a change in the gun laws would make a difference

Marco Rubio took this option this time round, stating that any proposed changes to the gun laws would not have prevented this latest shooting. Because as everybody knows, trying to stop something happening doesn’t mean it won’t happen, so why even bother? He stated that fixing the problems of society would have to come first, without actually proposing any ways to fix society. Bringing me nicely to…

“Trump made the oft-heard but rarely satisfactorily explained statement that if teachers were armed, schools would be safer. Yeah, I’ll just wait here if you want to ponder that statement a bit longer.”

Develop a short-lived interest in mental health issues

In the same way that I heard a lot of concern about homeless people in the UK when people had the audacity to suggest we could take in some refugees, pro-gun politicians always get very interested in the mental health of the nation when someone suggests they take away their guns.

Donald Trump played this card this time, although to be fair, he did try to play the Shit Happens card, but Bush got there first.

I expect an extensive strategy to reform US mental health care from camp Trump around the same time I expect the homeless shelters built by the people who comment on the Daily Mail website to start appearing across the UK.

Use it as an excuse to call for more guns

Trump wandered into this, often crowded, area too, making the oft-heard but rarely satisfactorily explained statement that if teachers were armed, schools would be safer. Yeah, I’ll just wait here if you want to ponder that statement a bit longer.

Blame the school

Carly Fiorina also favours the more is more attitude when it comes to firearms. Her ideas on the Oregon tragedy were this: “Before we start calling for more laws, I think we ought to consider why we don’t enforce the laws we have.” She pointed to the fact that the college was a gun-free zone and the shooter didn’t pay any attention. To be honest, I’m not sure what she thinks the school or police should be doing in this situation (patrol gun-free zones? Ban them?). But the rest of the message is pretty clear. Guns, guns, guns.

Blame Obama

In that terrific speech he gave after the Oregon shooting, the US president said that it wouldn’t be long before he was accused of politicising the matter. First to take that bait was Mike “I’ve had a gun since I was a child and it’s done me no harm” Huckabee, who tweeted that Obama was using it to advance his “liberal anti-gun agenda.” Before going on to use it to advance his own irrational, pro-gun agenda. Which is obviously completely different.

Blame the parents

Bobby Jindal was all over this, stating that the killer’s father – who was calling for gun reform – “is a complete failure as a father; he should be embarrassed to even show his face in public. He’s the problem here.”

Because everybody knows: people raised by single mothers ALWAYS end up killing people. It’s an indisputable fact.

Blame the victims

Perhaps the most extraordinary reaction to the death of nine people just going about their own business came from Ben Carson, who said changing the gun laws wouldn’t work “for the crazies”. Sorry, that’s Dr Ben Carson, in case you weren’t feeling the empathy.

He then added: “I would not just stand there and let him shoot me. I would say: ‘Hey, guys, everybody attack him! He may shoot me, but he can’t get us all.’” Yeah, stupid victims, letting themselves get shot.

Until next time, when I really hope we won’t have to talk about this again.

Click here to read all of Donkeys and Elephants.


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Written by Hannah Dunleavy

Hannah Dunleavy is the deputy editor of Standard Issue. She likes whisky and not having to run anywhere.