When yet another shooter gunned down 6 people in a Nashville school, a predictable tragedy took place. But for many, this one was different.

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The news has sent waves across America: A former pupil returned to their Nashville elementary school to gun down three children and three adults.

What happened was horrific. As we discuss the terrible ordeal, no discussion should take away from this reality. What the shooter did was disgusting, and when we seek understanding of what happened, explanation is not the same as justification.

But this event, in and of itself as another school shooting, is sadly not what has shocked the public. It is a sign of the times that school shootings are now somewhat normalized. But what has caused so much uproar is the fact that this was a Christian school and the perpetrator was a transgender former pupil.

It hasn’t upset many of the most vocal critics that this 28-year-old was legally able to buy seven guns from five stores. Instead, what has riled many is the gender of the shooter. “Transgender killer targets Christian school,” shouted the cover of the Murdoch-owned New York Post. The newspaper seemed to neglect the fact 98% of such attacks are carried out by people who identify as…men. It is highly unlikely that men will be vilified in the way the transgender community is now being attacked.

Conservative lawmaker Marjorie Taylor Greene was quick to voice her opinion:

There is a lot to be said about mental illness and its causal influence on shooters. But Greene appeared to have other intentions here, causally linking mental illness, and medications concerned with becoming transgender, to the shooting.

For such commenters, guns can never be at fault, or even something of a problem. The key is to exonerate guns in any way possible, and if, at the same time, transgenderism can be demonized, then it’s a Republican win-win.

GOP Senator JD Vance managed to stoke the culture wars with his Tweet:

Prominent Christian and founder of conservative group Turning Point USA added:

Before he continued to stoke the fires:

There are two issues simmering under the lid here. First, we have the typical cynical selection of a casual variable. Second, we are still not seeing the admission from these commentators that the availability of guns is an issue.

Cynical selection

I was sent this comment today elsewhere:

Jonithan, guns don’t kill children, transgender terrorists do. US President Biden confirmed his disconnect from reality when the 80-year-old began joking about his preference for chocolate chip ice cream before commenting on yesterday’s mass shooting at a Nashville Christian charter school that left six people dead, including three children. Biden concluded his comments with an obligatory condemnation of constitutionally mandated gun ownership designed by the Left to disarm US citizens. Neither the transgender terrorist killed by police, nor the killer’s radical left manifesto in what was an anti-Christian hate crime motivated by radical left gender ideology was mentioned.

I repeat this here because this is a common trope. In this case, the fact that the shooter was transgender absolves the availability of guns from being in any way responsible. And it highlights one aspect of the shooter that is cynically chosen.

It is ironically the right invoking identity politics.

The same approach is often taken when trying to pin some misdemeanor on race. In the UK, there is often the claim that there is a knife crime epidemic. It is worth mentioning here that the epidemic would be a whole lot worse if guns were available to those using knives, but that is another discussion.

In London, being a large urban center, knife crime is consistently in the news. We often hear, and usually from those with a certain political persuasion, that this is predominantly “Black on Black” knife crime. This is a “Black problem.”

Except Glasgow, in neighboring Scotland, in the 2000s, was labeled the murder capital of Europe with higher per capita knife crime than London.

Yet not a single person called these crimes “white on white” knife crimes, or labeled this a “white problem.”

People look for markers of identity to blame that fit in with their agenda.

As musician and political commentator Akala states in his masterful book Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire:

Given that the historically most violent regions of the UK had virtually no black population at all and given that working-class youth gangs stabbing and shooting people had existed in Britain for well over a century – who do you think the gangs attacking our grandparents when they arrived were? – you can imagine my shock when I discovered that there was, in the UK, such a thing as ‘black-on-black’ violence. None of what occurred in Northern Ireland had ever been referred to as ‘white-on-white’ crime, nor Glasgow, nor either world war, the Seven Years War, the Napoleonic Wars, nor any conflict or incident of murder, however gruesome, between humans racialised as white. Despite hundreds of millions of ‘white’ people killing each other throughout European history, witch hunts, mass rapes, hangings, torture and sexual abuse, and despite the fact that the two most violent regions of Britain in the 1990s were almost entirely white, there was no such thing as white-on-white violence.

He continues:

This is, after all, what the phrase ‘black-on-black crime’ is designed to suggest, is it not? That black people are not like the rest of humanity, and that they do not kill as a complex result of political, historical, economic, cultural, religious and psychological factors, they kill simply because of their skin: their excessive melanin syndrome. The fact that yellow-on-yellow crime, mixed race-on-mixed race crime or white-on-white violence just sound like joke terms but black on black violence has ‘credibility’ speaks very loudly about the perceived relationship between blackness and depravity in this culture.

In the same way, this person did not shoot others because the shooter was transgender—otherwise you would see a preponderance of transgender mass murderers. Given that one recent estimate sees 0.5% of the adult US population as transgender, one could argue that trans people are under-represented among mass shooters.

In fact, transgender teens are 7.6 times more likely to attempt to take their own lives.

There will be complexity and nuance involved in this tragedy and it would be wiser to seek understanding than to throw blame about in bilious kneejerk public announcements.

Availability of guns

And all of this is still smoke and mirrors for one of the obvious problems: Americans have dangerously easy access to guns. Literally.

I am British. I don’t have the Constitution. And, actually, I’m thankful. As controversial as that may seem to an American audience, I can’t remember the last time I saw a gun in the UK in real life. Over a decade ago? I walk the streets and feel some degree of safety that I am sure I would not feel in the US. At no point in my life do I feel that someone could get out a gun and do something stupid. And when someone is at their angriest in the UK, or most depressed, they don’t have the recourse to grab a firearm to turn that anger or despair on others or themselves.

But this is a tired battlefield full of data and arguments that others are rarely willing to take on board. But that data and those arguments are still valid. They are still there.

This latest shooting nightmare will be overshadowed by a war that uses different weapons, or is often simply about weapons. The culture war more likely sees the same wide brush used—not to paint, but rather to tar.

And though there are sadly six too many victims with too many grieving friends and families in this instance, we can rest assured that further pain and suffering will be meted out to an already marginalized community.

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Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...