We’ve been told, by some, that we shouldn’t politicize mass shootings. That it’s in poor taste to point out that guns kill people — or to mention that when we fail to properly regulate tools of destruction, people die. Yet Florida governor Rick Scott, then Donald Trump, quickly leveraged the latest mass shooting to serve their own political ends: the delegitimization of the FBI.
Scott started the circus, calling for FBI director Christopher Wray to resign after the Bureau failed to follow up on a tip that Nikolas Cruz might be plotting an attack. Although the FBI undoubtedly made mistakes, it’s an agency with 30,000 employees. Wray micromanaging the tip line would be a misuse of resources. Scott, as governor of the third-most-populous state, surely knows this, so it’s unclear what he expected Wray to do. What is clear is that Scott is a Trump ally and that removing Wray from office would allow the president to appoint a director more willing to halt the investigation into Russian interference. Scott’s angry demand comes at a time when many on the right have been looking for any reason to oust Wray. It seems a school shooting will do.
In case the connection wasn’t clear, Trump then tweeted it: “Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign – there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud!”
First, to Trump’s credit, I agree that the FBI should be doing more to curtail domestic terrorism, particularly from angry white men. However, the agents on the Russia investigation are not the same ones working domestic terrorism. The agency is large enough to do both — and has a mandate to do both.
Second, if Scott or other Republicans want to use a “buck stops here” approach with Wray, perhaps they should call for members of Congress to step aside. Do you remember that floated bump stock legislation after Vegas? Neither does Congress. Do you remember any legislation to curtail the use of AR-15s? Any legislation regulating any guns at all? All I remember are thoughts and prayers. And while it’s possible that gun violence can’t be effectively reduced through legislation, don’t hide behind this refrain while simultaneously blocking research into firearm deaths. Better yet, Scott might resign himself. After all, he signed into law the very bills that made it possible for a teenager to buy an AR-15 without a waiting period.
Do you remember any legislation to curtail the use of AR-15s? Any legislation regulating guns at all? All I remember are thoughts and prayers.
Finally, this isn’t the only mass shooting, just the latest. The FBI was not responsible for Vegas or the Texas church shooting, for Pulse nightclub or San Bernardino. So who are they going to hang out to dry next time? (Because there’s always been a next time in America.) Local law enforcement, a whole religion, or the millions of people with mental health afflictions? The GOP’s elephants want to convince us to look anywhere else in the room but at them.
Because, like most things in Trump-land, parsing these statements and dealing with them logically at face value is a futile exercise. Whenever the New Right tells us not to get political — to shut up and play football or to shut up and dribble or to shut up and grieve silently … or to just shut up — what they’re really saying is they don’t care what you think. What they’re really saying is that their voices are the only ones that matter. And as long as they speak loudly enough, they never have to hear you tell them the truth: This blood is on your hands.