I shouldn’t have to carry a gun to feel safe getting waffles.
I shouldn’t have to hope I’m seated near a mythological “good guy with a gun” to feel safe getting waffles.
And I shouldn’t have to pray that a James Shaw Jr. — the young man who jumped a half-naked gunman at a Waffle House in Tennessee last weekend before that lunatic could murder more customers — is in the restaurant, ready to risk his life, while I’m getting waffles.
We should be able to eat our waffles in peace. We should be able to send our kids to school without worrying that they’ll be gunned down. We should be able to go to church and not wonder whether an AR-15-toting person who fell through the mental-health-services cracks might stand up and open fire.
But we don’t feel that way. We can’t. This nation’s gun obsession has made it impossible, and those who stand in the way of any action that might limit access to guns — even to domestic abusers or the mentally ill — are insisting that their outlandish “right” to own any firearm they want supersedes our perfectly reasonable right to eat our waffles without toting a sidearm.
There’s a word for all this: terrorism. People don’t like to use that word when it comes to guns and Americans, and some will argue these shootings can’t be acts of terrorism because they lack a singular political aim. But there’s an overarching political aim in deeming this violence acceptable: Protect the gun industry at all costs.
And what are we really dealing with here if not terror? What do you call it when people are made to feel unsafe in the most public of places?
Four young people were gunned down early Sunday morning at that Waffle House near Nashville. A 29-year-old man from Morton, Ill., is the suspected shooter, and police say he used an AR-15-style assault rifle, the same type of firearm used in the Parkland school shooting (17 dead), the Texas church shooting (26 dead), the Las Vegas music festival shooting (58 dead) and the Orlando nightclub shooting (49 dead).
We’re told by the National Rifle Association and the politicians they fund that the only defense in any of these tragedies would be more guns. Armed teachers. Armed churchgoers. Armed music lovers. Armed waffle eaters.
They tell us mental health care is key, but do they increase funding for mental health care? No. Do they tighten gun laws to keep firearms out of the hands of the mentally ill? No. In fact, President Donald Trump’s only action on guns was signing a law last February that did away with a regulation President Barack Obama put in place that made it harder for people with mental illness to buy a gun.
Suspected Tennessee shooter Travis Reinking, according to Illinois and federal law enforcement agencies, showed ample signs of mental health problems. Last year he showed up at the White House asking to speak with Trump then refused to leave, saying he was “a sovereign citizen.”
He was arrested and charged with unlawful entry. That led FBI agents in Illinois and the Illinois State Police to confiscate the four firearms Reinking owned and revoke his gun license. One wonders what Reinking was still doing with four firearms, including an AR-15. He had previous run-ins with authorities in Tazewell County, including an incident in May 2016 when he told sheriff’s deputies he was being stalked by singer Taylor Swift and he feared his phone had been hacked.
At that time, according to the Peoria Journal Star: “His family had told Tazewell County deputies that he had been having delusions for almost two years.”
After the federal agents confiscated Reinking’s guns, they were returned to the man’s father. According to authorities, the man’s father then returned the guns to his son.
So the AR-15 Reinking had no business having in 2016 when he told deputies he was being stalked by a celebrity was the same assault rifle he carried into the Waffle House in Tennessee on Sunday morning. And were it not for Shaw, the hero who tackled Reinking while he was reloading, wrestling the rifle away, that AR-15 surely would have been fired more, increasing the death toll.
Something is fundamentally wrong here, and everyone who doesn’t think Taylor Swift is tapping their cell phone knows that’s true.
If these mass shootings had all come at the hands of a Muslim person, the Trump administration and a good chunk of the Republican Party would vehemently demand mosque surveillance and a complete ban on Muslims entering the country. We know that’s true because after an ISIS-inspired mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., in 2015 carried out by a husband and wife of Pakistani decent, Trump said this:
“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.”
Following yet another mass shooting at the hands of a person with mental health problems who was in possession of an AR-15, there’s no call for a total and complete shutdown of AR-15 sales in the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.
That’s because there are two kind of terrorism, one the Trump administration and the gun lobby will pounce on to stoke fear and another they will ignore so as not to lose donors or damage business.
And where does that leave us? Eating our waffles in fear.
Rex Huppke is a Chicago Tribune columnist. Readers may send him email at firstname.lastname@example.org.