The nearest Waffle House is about three hours from my house. The chances that I’ll be dining at one of them anytime soon are pretty small.
Still, the tradition of places like that is deeply ingrained in the American psyche. Around here it’s Denny’s or any number of diners, places boringly typical during daylight hours, but which spring to new life after midnight when they fill up with workers leaving their second shift jobs, party-goers for whom the canapés didn’t quite do it, prom-goers not nearly ready to call it a night, truckers, cops, emergency workers—the clientele is as variable as the pages-long menus most of these places provide.
There’s something uniquely American about them, and although the quadruple murder in the Nashville Waffle House last Sunday morning doesn’t rise to the level of other mass shootings over the past twenty years, it gives yet another lie to the premise that guns are not the problem, especially in Tennessee.
This “red state” and NRA stronghold (stranglehold?) adheres to some of the most permissive firearms provisions in the country. You can easily find statutes on line, but I’ll save you the trouble:
•No permit needed to purchase a long gun
•No registration of firearms
•No assault weapon law
•No magazine capacity restriction
•No owner license required
•No background checks for private sales
and of course,
•Open-Carry is permitted. Open-Carry as it relates to a loaded long gun is “generally prohibited.” (No, really—generally)
The shooter in Nashville murder, 29-year-old Travis Reinking, apparently knew none of the victims, and though he was white and the victims were all black or Hispanic, there is no early indication of this being a hate crime. That may change as more evidence becomes known. There is also no indication that Mr. Reinking was not completely out of his mind, and that his fixation on Taylor Swift was the least of his problems.
It’s true that Reinking’s father enabled his son by returning guns that were supposed to be kept from him, but Ms. Swift may be the wildcard here. I expect that the NRA will soon be issuing a statement claiming that guns are once again not the issue, but that Taylor Swift is; and that instead of trying to remove the Second Amendment rights from the mentally imbalanced, more federal funds should be earmarked for treating Taylor Swift devotees. Outlandish? Don’t forget, some of their membership blamed the Parkland students for Nikolas Cruz’s anger. Is blaming Ms. Swift really that big a leap?
I don’t mean to make light of this: four Americans lost their lives last Sunday in a vulgar and twisted display of Second Amendment rights carried out by a vulgar and twisted young man. In a larger sense what happened in Nashville last weekend demonstrated the clashing of two American traditions—the late-night run for home fries and waffles, and the slaughtering of innocents with military weapons. One of these could be legislated away by a Congress not bought and paid for, but since that isn’t the case in 2018 America, expect a Republican resolution soon to make America great again by banning either 24-hour restaurants or Taylor Swift.
Such political chicanery and unalloyed foolishness will keep us occupied until the next time a semi-automatic weapon becomes the blameless participant in another mass murder, or until November when we will finally have the responsibility to change things. Shame on us if we don’t.