#davidhogg

6.3 trillion reasons Blackrock isn’t worried

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Student activist, David Hogg, has added to his seemingly never ending list of firms to boycott. Yet again, the impetuousness of youth made him misunderstand the very nature of the business he is attacking. Yes, some Blackrock funds hold gun makers for the sake of index tracking. Some ESG related funds don’t. Clients of Blackrock and other funds get to choose what products they wish to invest in.

Paraphrasing what Blackrock’s Larry Fink said to CNBC on the matter, “we are just custodians of our client’s money. They decide what they wish to invest into and they can select from products that don’t hold gun manufacturers.

Fink said the feedback from clients was a 95/5 ratio in favour of what Blackrock is doing with respect to investment offerings. As a $6.3 trillion AUM asset manager one wonders how much impact this boycott will have. If history is a guide then Blackrock and other funds will no doubt see a boost to assets under management thanks to Hogg’s boycott.

Or perhaps Fink should offer him an internship to learn about ESG.

Turning the weapon of free speech on themselves (again)

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Activism clearly annoys Americans. David Hogg, of Parkland, Florida fame proved for a second time that Americans are sick and tired of being lectured to. What we can deduce is that many citizens with a pulse are revulsed by senseless crime but do not take nicely to being berated over expressing individual consumption choices based on the subjective views of others much less roll over and cede constitutional rights .

First, labeling innocent, law abiding  NRA members as “hav[ing] blood from children splattered all over their face”  led to a huge surge in memberships for the group since Hogg’s remarks.

Second, Fox host Laura Ingraham lost nearly 30 advertisers since Hogg’s boycott against her show launched on March 29, after her unnecessary remarks pointed at him for failing to get into several colleges. It turns out that data compiled by a media watchdog shows a jump from 2.23 million viewers prior to Mr. Hogg’s campaign to 2.7 million since her return from a vacation. Even liberal host Bill Maher defended Ingraham while censuring Hogg for dishing it but not taking it.

If Americans believe in their deep conscience that guns have no place in their society or Laura Ingraham is an insensitive brute, NRA membership and Fox viewership during her time slot would drift of their own accord and corporations could make business decisions ruled by fact rather than inaccurate I’ll-informed guesstimates of kneejerk reaction.

What has been exposed is yet more of the corporate hypocrisy seen since Nov 2016.

Moves by sporting goods store Dick’s to ban AR sales and raise the age limit to 21yo looked sensible from the outside. However it had multiple massacres over decades to make that call. The current CEO has been in charge since 1984. Why the u-turn in his conscience? Indeed the company did temporarily suspend sales of ARs after Sandy Hook in 2012 but kept retailing them at the company’s Field & Stream outlets before selling them again at Dick’s. If one looks at its website one can still buy a pump-action shotgun. Not very consistent.

Surely  if Dick’s feels so strongly about gun control perhaps it should stop selling them period. 95% of firearm related murders are committed with handguns. Statistically they’d be better off banning sales of pistols.  There are 50,000 (mostly individual) gun stores in the US who will gladly sell ARs to customers. One seriously doubts that Bob’s Guns in West Virginia will cut off his nose to spite his face until the law forces him too!

According to the Crime Prevention Research Center, murders in US appear to be very concentrated: 54% of US counties (representing 11% of the population) in 2014 had zero murders, 2% of counties made up 51% of the murders, ironically in states with the strictest gun controls – Illinois, NY and California.

The lesson for activists is simple – until they begin to engage in debate using fact rather than look to boycotts to shut it down they should look forward to yet further failures in pushing their agenda. By thinking they can score a bullseye for controlling societal moods, they’re  inadvertently turned the weapon of free speech on themselves .

Who is bullying who?

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For all of the sanctimonious actions of the left can we be surprised by the surge of American citizens rushing to protect their constitutional rights? NRA members being labeled criminals and having blood on their hands by a bunch of kids shows how the loss of the lives of 17 youths has turned into a sick political circus. NRA members have not been responsible for any mass shoootings. Anyone with a pulse knows how sick mass shootings are. No one doubts the trauma caused. No one wants gun violence, least of all the NRA. It is never in their interests to have a shooting. Period.  Most people outside America can’t fathom why anyone needs a gun. Yet the adults corralling these kids are only too happy to back their martyrdom. They should know better than to use children this way.

Since the march on Washington we’ve seen defacto spokesman David Hogg be outed for lying where he was at the time of the shooting. He led the speeches, threw his defiant salute at the end and got the media’s praise. What wasn’t covered by the mainstream media was the fact that he hung up on the office of the White House in the middle of a call ahead of the event which showed his immaturity then allowed his fame to get the better of him by rattling off an expletive laden rant – “Sadly, that’s what we have to do with our government because our parents don’t know how to use a f***ing democracy so we have to do it.”

Hogg totally ignored the facts that could have prevented the tragedy. He glossed over the fact that automatic rifles account for less than 3% of firearm deaths. He overlooked the fact that 10% of schools in America have metal detectors and almost half have drug sniffer dogs. No words about the surge in single parent households and all of the psychological knock on effects of that. Of course it is the NRA’s fault as he aptly described them, “…The pathetic f***ers that want to keep killing our children, they could have blood from children splattered all over their faces and they wouldn’t take action because they all still see those dollar signs…”

Cuban flag bearing student Emma Gonzalez admitted she’d bullied the shooter Nikolas Cruz.  Yet adults around the world celebrate their bravery. The Democrats even had voter registration booths to take advantage of a day which was supposed to be about one thing – gun control. One Parkland survivor, Kyle Kashuv, showed how gun control is but a small part of the problem. In his view bullying of outcasts, single parent households and the 78 glaring oversights by the FBI and law enforcement over several years which might have prevented the tragedy are far bigger issues. Yet the media gives it next to no airtime.

Take cyber bullying stats from the Association of Psychological Science in the US. In 2015 more than 16,000 young people were absent from school daily because of bullying. 83% of young people say cyber bullying has a negative impact on their self-esteem. 30% of young people have gone on to self-harm as a result of cyberbullying. 10% of young people have attempted to commit suicide as a result of cyberbullying. People who have been bullied are at greatest risk for health problems in adulthood, over six times more likely to be diagnosed with a serious illness, smoke regularly, or develop a psychiatric disorder compared to those not involved in bullying. In the US alone, suicides per 100,000 head of population since 2000 are up 38% according to WHO.

There is no problem with protesting under the guise of free speech provided it is done respectfully and with fact. This whole episode completely dismisses the dead kids and pushes an activist agenda. The media is just as shameful. One can be pretty certain that if the NRA was able to have reasoned debates on solutions a far better outcome would occur than openly outing innocent civilians as silent killers.

The idea of possessing a gun is irrational to CM but the growing trend of trying to shut down open debate, free speech and demonization if innocent people is a growing trend around the world.

Stopping school massacres in the playground

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While kids around America plan to walkout of school to protest for tighter gun control, one sensible police department is putting up this sign. Looking back over school massacres it should not have escaped anyone that the perpetrators are generally the ones that feel betrayed, left out, ignored, bullied or the subject of mockery on social media. In every school such things take place. We’ve all seen the bully and the weakling at play. The “Nigel no friends” taunts.

CM has pointed out the growing rate of single parent households (generally the father) is 40% in the white community and 70% in the black community. Psychological studies have shown boys seem to be more impacted by the lack of a father in the house than do girls. In many cases the perpetrators of these school massacres have had unstable family backgrounds. So these are the kids that are likely dealing with inner feelings of despair and struggling to understand how their place in the world works. Throw bullying on top of this and the feelings of revenge fester, sadly in ways that sometimes end up in Parkland tragedies.

Therefore as much as these kids feel aggrieved and angered enough to march and beat up on politicians, the NRA, it’s members and sponsors perhaps this meme of #walkupnotout is the real lesson that will go far further than banning guns outright to prevent such disasters in the future. These kids who are willing to make a plan over months and years to get their subjective justice won’t stop just because they can’t lay their hands on a firearm. Cars, knives, bomb making or any other means will still be available to them.

So to David Hogg and his fellow student activists don’t forget that to prevent further such atrocities perhaps the most powerful weapon to disarm is actually yourselves taking a step to befriend the outcasts you know exist.

FedEx gives a lesson in corporate communications over the NRA

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CM wrote earlier in the week on the hypocrisy of corporates disassociating themselves from the NRA after the Parkland, Florida school shooting despite having decades of similar incidences to have done it. Yet their conscience never got the better of them because targeting  5,000,000 members was good for business. FedEx on the other hand has made it clear on its position with respect to gun control. Despite that it will continue to provide a service and will not be bullied, coerced or cave into activism to target members who did not commit a crime. Good on FedEx for making it clear where they stand rather than cower to social media pressure.

The adolescent media spokesman of choice, David Hogg, made very clear that he wants to hold a proverbial gun to the head of every corporate to ditch the NRA. FedEx and Amazon were also singled out as targets by the Florida student for continuing to offer discounts to the NRA. He even threatened to cancel his Amazon TV subscription because it broadcast NRATV. It is absolutely his choice to make. By all means Mr Hogg can vote however he chooses with his wallet. He should extend the same courtesy.

No one is questioning or trivializing the trauma of such a tragic event but the constant hunt to ‘shame’ people (who’ve done nothing illegal) always ends up causing those ‘shamed’ to do the opposite of the intended strategy. Many corporates could have followed FedEx’s lead. Shouldn’t it be up to individuals to freely consider whether they want to fly United, rent a Hertz car or send packages via FedEx? It is absolutely their choice to do. Most people are thinking of the function of the service at the time, not conduct pre-flight checks on whether the company has an affiliation with the NRA or any other group disliked by others.

If people are honestly abhorred by any corporate that offers discounts to the NRA then they will naturally adjust consumption patterns. 19 years since Columbine would suggest most corporates didn’t care and saw no appreciable impact to revenues by staying with the NRA. Consumers do not require people bashing them over the head to swallow a message they may already agree with or not. Surely observing the actions of those exercising unbridled volition is a superior barometer of mood over issues rather than force feeding.

Does David Hogg think he will win over NRA members by slapping them on his Twitter feed? Does Hogg seriously believe that slamming the president by branding him a coward and a draft dodger on social media will turn him, especially given his track record? If he wished to gain traction he would go far further asking to meet with Trump in the White House with his school mates and lay out a comprehensive plan to try get some leverage on the NRA. It may be a futile exercise but if he wants to show the moral high ground and win over the masses (the mainstream media would only be too happy to oblige) then acting in a manner which shows that he embodies that spirit will have a far better chance of converting others.

It will be interesting to see whether the NRA sees a surge in membership on the back of being attacked in this way. Earlier this week, a yearly membership was $30, Today it is $40. Could it be the hike is on the back of overwhelming support? Surely a club that is hemorrhaging members would be cutting prices to stay afloat.

The group published a membership recruitment drive which was viewed over 10 million times this week. The idea that all of the members at the NRA are deranged gun-toting lunatics incapable of listening to sensible suggestions is quite an accusation but often made. This was its response to those corporates that dumped it:

NRA STATEMENT ON CORPORATE PARTNERSHIPS

(FAIRFAX, VA) – The more than five million law-abiding members of the National Rifle Association have enjoyed discounts and cost-saving programs from many American corporations that have partnered with the NRA to expand member benefits.

Since the tragedy in Parkland, Florida, a number of companies have decided to sever their relationship with the NRA, in an effort to punish our members who are doctors, farmers, law enforcement officers, fire fighters, nurses, shop owners and school teachers that live in every American community. We are men and women who represent every American ethnic group, every one of the world’s religions and every form of political commitment.

The law-abiding members of the NRA had nothing at all to do with the failure of that school’s security preparedness, the failure of America’s mental health system, the failure of the National Instant Check System or the cruel failures of both federal and local law enforcement.

Despite that, some corporations have decided to punish NRA membership in a shameful display of political and civic cowardice. In time, these brands will be replaced by others who recognize that patriotism and determined commitment to Constitutional freedoms are characteristics of a marketplace they very much want to serve.

Let it be absolutely clear. The loss of a discount will neither scare nor distract one single NRA member from our mission to stand and defend the individual freedoms that have always made America the greatest nation in the world.

Having said all of the above, the voting down of a tax break for Delta Airlines by the Senate in the State of  Georgia which openly admitted that it was punishment for cutting sponsorship ties with the NRA was no less juvenile. No doubt many might view this as the NRA cashing in on favours for all those donations. Whether they played a direct hand is not determined. This is the political class trivializing sensitive matters. Cut Delta’s support for the right reasons but not because it made a commercial decision, no matter how daft the reasoning.

While we should be reflecting on the memories of 17 students that died from senseless gun violence and how to ensure it doesn’t happen again, we see that Mr Hogg and others believe that holding a metaphorical gun to peoples’ heads is the way to fix the problem. It is a sad lesson for society today. Sensible debate can’t be had with threats of coercion or aggression. Introducing ‘common sense’ gun laws requires compromise and the freedom to express opinions, no matter how absurd. All this threatening behaviour sends either party to the debate to the opposite side of the room.

Ridding the country of guns and taking homicides to zero would be a Utopian dream. That is a matter for voters to get the law changed. The irony is that tighter gun laws could have been pushed through under the Obama administration, which had majorities in the lower and upper houses. It didn’t. Clearly Democrats didn’t view it as a priority at the time.

N.B. CM is not debating the rights and wrongs of the NRA’s activity or their positions. None-the-less the fact it has 5 million members shows that it has a following and is well organized. Were it a complete crackpot organization then people would be leaving it in droves. Seems like the opposite is occurring. That would probably be a factor for so many corporates signing up in the first place. FedEx hasn’t forgotten that. It is hard not to agree with the way it handled the debate – We dislike your views on guns but we observe the legal rights surrounding them. CM congratulates FedEx for its candor on the matter.

Did you put on your bulletproof vest sweetheart?

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Is this the next school uniform? As written yesterday, gun violence in US schools has been a problem for decades. Metal detectors have been installed at certain schools since the 1990s. Gun massacres have still occurred. The problem stems from a growing tide of broken homes and kids venting out. The Zero Hour documentary on the Columbine massacre reveals in chilling details how premeditated and well prepared (not to mention preventable) the attack was – propane bombs, pipe bombs, machine guns, pistols and even handgrenades. Perpetrator Eric Harris’s father called up the police on hearing of the shooting fearing his son maybe behind it. The police had received multiple enquiries from concerned parents over death threats Harris had made online to students yet chose to do nothing. Harris and Klebold openly documented their intent in videos and diaries. It is patently clear they wanted revenge for their subjective feelings of having had their esteem crushed by society, especially by more popular class mates. It is clear there were no role models trying to pull them back from the brink.

Still the ‘banning guns will solve it all’ solutions still avoid dealing with the real problem. The psychology of kids lost in a world where they feel outcasts. Feelings of rejection, loss and trodden on self esteem are shown to be time and time again to be a leading factor in kids picking up a weapon and seeking to right perceived wrongs. Many American high school kids drive to school. Can we envisage one deciding to drive a car on campus mowing down students at lunch time? Will banning cars be a solution?

What next? Will parents be decking out kids in bulletproof vests and hoping teachers who are incentived to arm themselves in the class room step up if all hell breaks loose? One wonders whether kids like Harris & Klebold would have been deterred by teachers packing heat. Even worse, SWAT snipers at a distance of 500 meters may not be able to determine at the time who are the ‘bad guys’. Even worse, how terrible it would be for a teacher to be tasked with ‘offing’ a student who he or she teaches in remedial maths class. One would hope the motivation of teachers is to want to educate students to get ahead rather than aim at their head. Or have things got so bad in some schools that such a remedy gets leant a sympathetic ear. Having armed security at schools is less and less a rare occurrence.

In 2015, about 3,000,000 teens ages 12 to 17 had had at least one major depressive episode over the year according to the Department of Health and Human Services. More than 2 million admitted they were experiencing depression in ways that impair daily function. The National Institute of Mental Health reported about 30% of girls and 20% of boys– some 6.3 million teens–have had an anxiety disorder.

A Seattle Children’s Hospital study tracked hashtags people use on Instagram to talk about self-harm. It noted a dramatic increase over the past two years. In 2014 researchers got 1.7 million search results for “#selfharmmm”. By 2015 that number had surged to over 2.4 million.

The American Psychological Association (APA) released a report several years ago during the school year saying that teens report their stress level is higher than levels reported by adults in the past month. Many teens admitted feeling overwhelmed (31%) and depressed or sad (30%) as a result of stress. More than one-third of teens report fatigue or feeling tired (36%).

Sales of antidepressant drugs is expected to be a $17bn industry in the US in 2020, up $3bn from 2015. The National Center of Health Statistics reports the prevalence of teenagers taking such drugs has grown to 13%, in 2015 up from 11% in 2008. 68% of people ages 12 and up said they had been taking their antidepressant for two years or more. A quarter who took antidepressants reported taking them for 10 years or more. Clinical depression affects about 16mn people in the U.S. and is estimated to cost the U.S. about $210 billion a year in productivity loss and health care.

Is this honestly seen as the best way to tackle a mental health crisis? Just dope up teenagers and hope they are comfortably numb so as to not want to do harm to themselves or others? It was shown that Harris had switched antidepressants which could have fueled not quelled his homicidal and suicidal tendencies. This isn’t about guns. It is about ignoring the elephant in the room – stressed out kids with no mentors or role models to coax them out of their problems.

In some respects, schools are only making it worse by pandering to safe spaces and enforcing trigger warnings. Instead of dealing with the psychological problems at source and proactively targeting attention starved kids growing up in broken homes by counselling them in ways to build self esteem and how to get on in the “real” world, the problem will only fester because irrational feelings of hopelessness will get reinforced by ignoring the real issue.

Tranquilizing people with mental issues by molly-coddling them is also the mantra in the world of identity politics. By muzzling people from speaking truths we only build barriers around effective solutions. That regulations around hurting people’s feelings are increasingly being enforced, is it any wonder we are growing a generation of victims who can pin the blame on irrelevant and unrelated things? Healing comes through listening and understanding by open and transparent dialogue. Not by banning it.

Will an hypothetical ban on guns prevent the growing trend of kids growing up in single-parent households (and all of the psychological data which shows clear evidence of a higher rate of delinquency in children) from committing  such terrible acts of violence because they have no access to firearms? Feelings of desperation will only lead them to find other ways of seeking their distorted view of attaining inner peace. More kids will die and at the end the exact same problems will manifest themselves again – what lead to the act? At least in this case, Parkland, Florida shooter Nikolas Cruz survived. Perhaps we will learn much more about the psychological timeline of him if the press can wake up for 5 minutes and stop trying to link the act purely to white supremacy because it fits a narrative.

Security measures in US schools – shocking stats

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Let’s get one thing clear. Whether victims of shootings are kindergarten kids, school students, work colleagues or old age pensioners, the sheer act of it points to an increasingly sick element of society. To take innocent lives because of one’s own sense of subjective injustice can’t be justified. That’s hardly an earth shattering revelation. However what is actually going on at schools when it comes to securing students safety? The stats are mind boggling.

A 2017 study by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reported the following,

In the 2013–14 school year, 93 percent of public schools reported that they controlled access to school buildings by locking or monitoring doors during school hours. Other safety and security measures reported by public schools included the use of security cameras to monitor the school (75 percent), a requirement that faculty and staff wear badges or picture IDs (68 percent), and the enforcement of a strict dress code (58 percent). In addition, 24 percent of public schools reported the use of random dog sniffs to check for drugs, 20 percent required that students wear uniforms, 9 percent required students to wear badges or picture IDs, and 4 percent used random metal detector checks.

Breaking down some of the categories in the chart 5.5% of primary schools use sniffer dogs to check for drugs!! Over half of high schools have random drug searches. 9% of high schools have metal detectors. How did it get to this? Is taking such preventive action having an impact?

In 1994, the federal government began requiring schools to introduce safety programs in an attempt to crack down on violence on school grounds. Many schools introduced metal detectors to check for guns, knives and other weapons. The year after the measures were introduced, violent deaths on high school campuses across the United States halved.

Then in 1999, the Columbine High School shooting reset the bar on violence inside the schoolyard. Armed with shot guns, machine guns, pistols and pipe bombs two students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, murdered 12 students and one teacher before committing suicide. Listening to interviews of those who survived, the answer was the same – the two were regarded as outcasts. It was later shown that they were on anti-depressant medication and had committed multiple felonies. An excellent documentary done by Zero Hour chronologically runs through their mindset

In May 2002, the Secret Service published a report that examined 37 U.S. school shootings showing strikingly similar signals. The findings were:

1) Incidents of targeted violence at school were rarely sudden, impulsive acts. Prior to most incidents, other people knew about the attacker’s idea and/or plan to attack.

2) Most attackers did not threaten their targets directly prior to advancing the attack.
There is no accurate or useful profile of students who engaged in targeted school violence.

3) Most attackers engaged in some behavior prior to the incident that caused others concern or indicated a need for help.

4) Most attackers had difficulty coping with significant losses or personal failures. Many had considered or attempted suicide.

5) Many attackers felt bullied, persecuted, or injured by others prior to the attack.

6) Most attackers had access to and had used weapons prior to the attack.

7) In many cases, other students were involved in some capacity.

8) Despite prompt law enforcement responses, most shooting incidents were stopped by means other than law enforcement intervention.

Trump’s suggestion of arming teachers seems ludicrous to outsiders. To have holstered teachers (boils down to a question of how many would want to ‘carry’ in the classroom) or armed sentries in front of schools hardly sends the right messages about teaching respect. Then again with the ever growing surge of kids growing up in single parent households (currently 40% of white households and 70% of black households) in the US the psychological studies point to an increase in dysfunctionality in kids because of a lack a stable guardian to keep them on the rails.

Banning guns or enforcing gun free zones won’t prevent future massacres. Will America need 100% of schools to have airport style security with pat downs, ion scanners and prison style walls to prevent would be perpetrators breaking in? Maybe they will if families keep breaking down and disgruntled delinquent teenagers feel they need to vent.

Yet come between some Americans and the 2nd Amendment and all manner of excuses to justify ownership surfaces. As an Australian, my country is often highlighted as a success story of mandatory gun confiscation after the Port Arthur massacre in 1996.

Yes Australia hasn’t seen a massacre since yet there was never a big problem in the first place. 661,000 firearms were removed from circulation. Or 1 gun for every 33 people. In the US it is c.1 gun for every person in circulation. Even if a third of households have them we are looking at 1 gun per 3 people in the US.

The Aussie government offered $500/gun average. If Trump ran the same programme (albeit 21 years later) and taking into account inflation then conservatively at $1,000 a gun he would be looking at a cost of $320bn. To put that in perspective the annual US military budget is around $680bn. So a combined spend of $1 trillion.

Yet as tragic as the Florida shooting is, mainstream and social media has turned this into a cesspit of vile abuse and misinformation.

Whether it be the conspiracy theories of high school student David Hogg being a CNN planted child actor, Trump’s hand written  notes or kids threatening to march on Washington the whole tragedy is turning into a debacle. While we should be mourning the deaths of 17 innocent students at the hands of a lunatic, the media seems more focused on Trump bashing and posting memes of Republicans in the pockets of the NRA.

If guns in schools have been an issue since the 1990s, we have had ample numbers of administrations who could have acted but didn’t. If the 14 gun massacres that occurred under the Obama Administration when the Democrats had control of the House and Senate  resulted in no action being taken why the song and dance by Democrats today? Sounds like political point scoring at its worst.

This isn’t or at least shouldn’t be a partisan issue. This is an issue of a breakdown in social values. By allowing single parent households to simply and easily marry the state through generous subsidies, parental responsibility is being thrown out the window. To be fair automatic weapons are hardly a requirement for a civilian population but let’s deal with the real issues behind why so many students are being massacred rather than just the method of how they commit the atrocities.

Banning guns seems so simple to cure the problem but as the stats above make clear, the solution is far more complex than armed teachers, rent-a-cops at school gates and metal detectors. Parents need to start taking far more responsibility and the media needs to start focusing on keeping it real.

It is disturbing to turn a tragedy into yet another excuse to crank up Trump Derangement Syndrome. He may have handled the messaging poorly (as he does with most issues) but let’s look at the history. Almost 20 years have gone by since Columbine High and despite countless repeat events, where has the same level of outrage been? Exactly. Nowhere. Tragedies should never be used for political gain. Where is the dignity for the dead? Perhaps we can just boil the whole behaviour surrounding the awful event as merely “moving with the times”. It is the term we seem to hear for every other excuse to shut down sensible debate.

Ultimately it is for Americans to decide to vote for parties that will change laws for the greater good. The rest of the world can shake their head and waggle the finger at America’s gun laws but perhaps they should focus on how good they’ve got it at home by comparison.