On Wednesday afternoon, a 19-year-old brought an AR-15 weapon to a high school in Parkland, Florida. He allegedly shot more than two dozen people, killing 17. It was not the first mass shooting of 2018, and it was one of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in American history.
In the wake of the latest school shooting, a familiar blueprint took hold. Republicans expressed condolences for the victims. Democrats demanded action and scolded Republicans for their inaction. President Donald Trump tweeted. Journalists cited statistics on the number of school shootings. Polls were shared that showed strong support for things like universal background checks. And people wondered openly whether this time would change anything.
“Lots of people lamenting ‘nothing will change’ today,” tweeted Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat and leading gun control advocate. “That’s what people said before the Montgomery boycott. That’s what people said before Stonewall. Change happens, if at the moment when it seems most unlikely, you decide to do more.”
That’s a hopeful and important sentiment. And, Murphy is right. Nothing changes until everything does.
But, if past is prologue, this shooting won’t change much of anything. Here’s a list of what likely won’t change – in no particular order than how I thought of them:
1. The National Rifle Association will insist this is not about guns but mental illness.
2. Some sort of legislative fix – not any broad-scale gun reform but a more narrow-cast solution – will emerge. After the Las Vegas shooting, it was banning bump stocks. (Remember those?) After Newtown, it was limiting high-capacity rifles and closing several background check loopholes.
3. That legislative solution will be decried as insufficient by gun control advocates.
4. It will fail – likely without even a vote of any sort.
5. Gun sales nationwide will remain steady – and may even grow slightly in the days immediately following Wednesday’s shootings.
6. Gun rights advocates will argue that any attempts to limit the ability buy or own guns is a slippery slope leading to some sort of nationalized collection of all guns.
7. Gun control groups like Everytown will tout petitions packed with hundreds of thousands of signatures pushing for common-sense gun reform. They will also promise to defeat those who stand against these common-sense changes. They will spend real money against those candidates. Most – if not all – of those candidates will win anyway.
8. Democrats who want to run for president will insist that we can’t forget this shooting. That this is the tipping point. They will pledge to talk relentlessly about the need for common sense gun reforms. They will say it will be at the center of their campaign. With the possible exception of Murphy, they won’t make good on that pledge.
9. The average person will think that this is a terrible tragedy. Some (many?) will think it could be prevented. Others will dismiss it as a sad reality of modern society. Most of them will forget about it by this weekend. It will recede to the back of almost everyone’s mind by next weekend.
10. There will be an other Parkland. Then another. Then another. These 10 steps will repeat themselves. On and on and on again.