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He did not act alone

Jeremy Schulman

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“We don’t know his motive yet, but authorities believe he acted alone”…“it was a lone gunman”…“the shooter acted alone…”

No, he didn’t.

A motive will probably be assigned to him. We have studied every mass shooting since 1982. And the “motives” are usually some combination of the following: He struggled with bullying. Or self-loathing and depression. Maybe he had an ax to grind with an authority figure. Maybe he hated a certain group of people.

But whatever we learn about the Uvalde shooter, or any future ones—because there will be more—don’t say they “acted alone,” which is largely media code for “this doesn’t appear to be Islamic terrorism.” No matter the particulars, these “lone” gunmen all have scores of accomplices. Here is a wholly incomplete list of those who bear direct responsibility in this slaughter of 19 children and two teachers, and the brutality visited on those still in the hospital, all the families, and the community and country at large: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott: A relentless cheerleader for gun extremism, last year he gleefully signed seven bills rolling back gun regulations—including abolishing licenses for handguns. In the aftermath of this shooting he blamed mental health issues, a go-to tactic to distract from the gun debate, despite having cut $21 million from state mental health services. The GOP-controlled Texas statehouse, which had already passed a slew of laws that rolled back any reasonable gun restrictions—many of which they did immediately after mass shootings, including permitless carry.

Sen. Ted Cruz, a leading recipient of gun lobby money, who now suggests the solution is forcing students and staff to enter and leave through one door. Scholars of military “kill zone” tactics and the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire beg to differ. Sen. John Cornyn, ever content to draft in behind his slightly more venal compatriot, who is making bleating noises about possible compromises he will vote against in the end. Rupert Murdoch, for translating the El Paso, Buffalo, and Pittsburgh shooters’ screeds into prime-time programming.

Every damn person who works for Fox News now, and really since at least 2010. Like gun manufacturers, they sell fear and grievance to a mostly white male audience. They profit off of hate. And cable companies are their accomplices.

Every politician—looking at you, Elise Stefanik—fueling “replacement theory” hate to raise money and get more Fox air time.

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who won’t bring HR 8—requiring universal background checks—to an immediate vote because, he says, people know where their senators stand, and he hopes to reach a compromise bill that can get 60 votes. Charlie Brown, Lucy, football.

Every member of Congress who isn’t right this minute working to get additional bills to the floor to pass national red flag laws, institute waiting periods, limit high-capacity guns and clips, finally digitize ATF records, permit federal research into gun crimes—any of a dozen commonsense laws that have overwhelming bipartisan public support. No meaningful federal laws have been passed since 20 children and six educators were slaughtered at Sandy Hook elementary, in Newtown, Connecticut.

Every member of Congress and every single one of their staffers who is more concerned with getting home for the holiday weekend than doing something to end the carnage. Especially after they just acted with “lightning speed” when people peacefully protested at the houses of Supreme Court justices.

The four Democratic senators (Harry Reid doesn’t count) who joined the Republicans to vote against the 2016 ­­Manchin–Toomey compromise bill on background checks. Especially Heidi Heitkamp, who, when asked about her vote on Thursday, told a reporter, “I no longer have to answer your questions.” Nice.

Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who will not override the filibuster even to prevent the slaughter of school kids, shoppers, or churchgoers—even for HR 8, which is essentially the bill Manchin championed for years.

Extra points for Manchin telling reporters yesterday that this time compromise talk “feels a little different.” Which he said after Parkland. And Newtown.

And for Sinema, who said she doesn’t believe that “DC solutions are realistic here.” Every member of Congress who voted to give gun manufacturers a liability shield in 2005. (Looking at you, Henry Cuellar!) George W Bush for signing it.

Antonin Scalia, for replacing the actual, arcane, mostly insignificant Second Amendment with an entirely invented new one that overrides seemingly everything else in American life.

The high priests of the Beltway “both sides” oracle.

The “thoughts and prayers” crew.

Gun manufacturers and their handmaidens at the NRA, which agreed to the Manchin–Toomey bill back in 2013, but then walked away once it received concessions.

Vladimir Putin, who, together with his spies, helped bolster the NRA because he saw it as a way to sow domestic division.

Alex Jones. Seriously, fuck that guy forever. Ditto to his anonymous Bitcoin donor. And Ted Cruz for defending him.

Ted Cruz, again, for this.

Trump. Too many reasons to list. Here’s the latest.

Social media companies and streamers that drag their feet about taking down shooters’ videos and rants, and do not invest nearly enough to keep their platforms from fueling the “Columbine effect.”

Everybody pushing lockdown drills and bulletproof backpacks and arming teachers—and other reactive, largely performative measures. Active school shooter drills are shown to deeply traumatize children, and there’s little evidence that they’ve reduced the overall carnage. They certainly don’t prevent school shootings. We should be investing school and community resources in a far more robust and universal “threat assessment” plan to ID troubled individuals, support them, and dissuade them from violent acts.

Every politician and pundit saying more armed cops on campuses is the answer. Uvalde is an utter refutation of the bogus “good guy with a gun” claim, which was only ever about increasing gun sales.

Every politician who declares they are “pro-life” yet are wantonly indifferent to the carnage of their gun policies and positions. They’ll force you to have a child, and then lead that child to slaughter.

Everybody who is tossing their hands up and declaring that nothing will ever change. Yes, the anti-majoritarian Senate and state legislatures are pushing the ideas of an extreme minority onto the rest of us, on this subject and so many others. Yes, there are millions of guns out there already. That only means we have to fight harder, and for longer. But change can come if we are willing to put in the work.

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