WASHINGTON — It is now a ritual, and uniquely American. Its predictability is almost like the Catholic Mass, and many of the old mainline Protestant services. First, the introit: Republican Gov. Rick Scott, in a meticulously starched shirt leading the press conference.
Closely followed by Parkland, Florida's prevailing top cop, Sheriff Scott Israel in aviator sunglasses, and sporting his navy blue blouse with a constellation of stars on each collar tab – the stars all senior police wear to make them look like Gen. Omar Bradley or Dwight Eisenhower during World War II.
Then the local FBI agent in charge, in regulation suit and tie, like an acolyte, handing off the microphone as soon as he could. Now comes the Florida attorney general, Republican Pamela Jo Bondi, with an offer to pay for the funerals of the 17 dead faculty and children; and isn't that special. Then, in tones fit for a bishop fresh from the sacristy, appears President Trump at the White House, full of his newfound religiosity and sweet nothings for the surviving children. This level of carnage merits a presidential visitation to Broward County, and there will likely be one.
In their turn are the readings – the customary praise for the "first responders" – for what? Stacking up the dead? The epistle of the day was from Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. It is too early to speak about gun control he told friends at Fox News. His message was intoned all over America by Republican legislators and GOP "strategists" and by hate radio. It is always too early. It is always too early because another massacre interrupts any due diligence or consideration we're able to devote to the previous massacre.
Rubio is well qualified to speak of timing, politics and guns.
Various surveys, including one by The New York Times, show Rubio's campaigns were supported by $3.3 million in donations from the National Rifle Association. At last year's NRA leadership conference, Gov. Scott said NRA donations and field work did more than any one else to help Trump carry Florida in the 2016 presidential election.
And Trump was right there to thank the NRA for its cash and hard work.
The NRA gave Republican Reps. Chris Collins of Clarence and Tom Reed of Corning each $2,000 last year and has already donated $1,000 to each for 2018. They'll get whatever they need, and so will hundreds of other GOP candidates if they do what they are told: that is, to block any semblance to gun control bills or regulation. For example, after last October's slaughter in Las Vegas, there was talk about barring the "bump stock" the Las Vegas killer used to convert his assault weapons into machine guns. The NRA spoke vaguely about supporting a regulation barring these conversions, but that idea faded quietly like the names of the hundreds of innocent dead.
In the meantime, Trump signed a bill making it easier for some who are mentally ill to obtain a federal permit to buy a gun. Not even the attempted assassination of a half-dozen Republican House members, an assault at an Alexandria ball park in which House Majority Whip Steve Scalice, R-La., sustained life-threatening injuries, could weaken the cast-iron support the GOP lends the NRA – under all circumstances.
The dead children, the dead teachers, like the 59 massacred revelers in Las Vegas last year, are the periodic ritual sacrifices – the "spotless victims" of the NRA's and the Republican Party's devotion to guns, and to money and to raw power. The NRA and the GOP did not start out to commit evil, but it is ending up that way. This has become evil.
And now even some of the Democratic leadership appear intimidated by the awful prospect of this evil. Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, the Democratic minority leader, once sponsored legislation barring sales of the fanatics' weapon of choice, the AR-15. It was law for 10 years until it expired under President George W. Bush. Schumer has gone back and forth on whether the AR-15 should be banned once more. Last week in a Senate speech about the latest mass killing, Sen. Schumer said:
"Let us do something, something about the epidemic of gun violence in our country." And what is that?