Jack Tame: Mass murder fails to shock Americans any more


On the Oikos University lawn lay seven dead bodies. One by one, they were brought out and set down in a neat line. Some hodge-podge tarpaulins hid their bloody wounds and drained faces from the helicopters that beat above them.

The shooter was arrested at a shopping mall nearby. He told police he'd been planning the murders for several weeks; he'd bought the gun perfectly legally and carried it to the campus intending to kill people.

And with the killer in cuffs, justice was done. With seven people dead, America simply moved on.

It wasn't quite the same with Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old black kid nobody had heard of until six weeks ago when he was shot dead walking home through Florida suburbia.

The man who killed him wasn't a mugger nor a drugged-up psychopath desperate for cash. He's a self-appointed neighbourhood watch officer who says the teenager attacked him first. And after he claimed self-defence, police decided not to charge him.

The fallout is unprecedented. Thousands of people have marched across America in protest; every section of popular society, from Barack Obama to the Miami Heat NBA basketball team has spoken out on Martin's death.

It's been a trial by cable news and social media, and the shooter has been unanimously portrayed as a lying, under-achieving, delusional, murderous racist.

That, he may well be. But six more people died in the Californian shooting and, unlike Martin, the nation's attention has already dwindled and shifted.

The Oikos University shootings don't have the marketing, the NBA teams or the online petitions. Campus shootings are so 2007. Today, it's much cooler to be outraged about Martin.

But the more they march, the more I've wondered if the American public's anger is completely misdirected.

It's reasonable to question why no charges were laid against Martin's shooter but nobody seems to question why the neighbourhood watchman was carrying a concealed pistol in the first place.

Sure, it might have been completely legal and he may have had the correct licence. But really? This wasn't Baghdad or Mogadishu or somewhere in war-torn Africa.

He was patrolling bog-standard suburbia, America at its most mundane. What imminent threat is there to protect against?

Martin was armed with a pack of sweets and a cellphone. The man who killed him was armed with a semi-automatic handgun.

So, too, was the man who slaughtered seven people at Oikos University.

Perhaps I'm too fresh but, for the American public, the gun debate is so tired as to no longer register.

To an outsider it still seems too easy for Americans to buy murderous weapons and kill their countrymen. The laws are so easy to criticise. So easy, perhaps, that this week nobody seems to have bothered.

Bearing arms is a basic constitutional right, of course, in America. That makes it barely worth questioning.

Never mind the right to live. Never mind the right not to be shot. 'Cause, hey, if a right's a right it must be right, right?

- Herald on Sunday

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