A Mass Shooting in Nashville — A System that Cannot Keep us Safe

A memorial for victims of a mass shooting at a private Christian school in Nashville, Tenn. on Monday, March 27, 2023. (Credit: John Amis/AP)

Yesterday, another horrible mass shooting took place, killing three nine-year-old children and three adults (a custodian, a substitute teacher, and the head of the school) at a private Christian elementary school in Nashville, Tennessee.

According to news reports, the shooter was a 28-year-old, who identifies as transgender. The right-wing news media and right-wing politicians have seized on this as an opportunity to further demonize trans and non-binary people.

What hypocrites! There is absolutely no basis to claim that transgender identity is associated with acts of violence — this is just transphobia. In fact, trans people in the U.S. are four times more likely to be the victims of violence compared to their cisgender peers, according to a 2021 study (Cisgender refers to someone whose gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth). The vast majority of mass shootings in the U.S. have been carried out by cisgender men, but when a cisgender man commits a mass shooting, their gender identity is ignored because it is considered irrelevant.

The Republicans’ hate-filled rhetoric is part of a larger attack on trans people that is happening across the country. This year alone, right-wing Republicans have introduced 483 anti-trans bills in all but four states. Many of these bills impose severe restrictions on trans people, limiting medical care, charging doctors and parents with felonies for providing gender-affirming care to transgender youth, and criminalizing and banning various public expression of transgender identity, including drag performances, bathroom use, participation in sports, and pronoun use in schools. The far-right Republicans that are promoting these bills seek to deny the very existence of transgender people and aim to erase trans and nonbinary people from public life. This rhetoric encourages the frequent violence that is carried out against trans people and LGBTQ people in general.

The violence of mass shootings has nothing to do with the gender identity of the shooters. In reality, mass shootings are increasingly becoming a regular part of life in the U.S. Last year, there were 647 mass shootings, and so far this year, there have been 130 mass shootings — this averages to more than one mass shooting per day. The frequency of mass shootings has contributed to a general sense of fear in the whole population, especially among school children, parents, and teachers.

Mass shootings make up just a small part of the violence that permeates our whole society. Violence is a part of everyday life in the U.S. It is much more than just the violence of mass shootings, the violence of the streets, or the violence carried out by police, disproportionately against people of color. It is more than just the mass violence of U.S. wars and weapons around the world. It is also violence in the form of 16 suicides every day of veterans of U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is violence in the form of emotional and physical abuse of partners, family members, and others, often by people suffering from unemployment, low wages, and gender, racial, and other discrimination. It is the violence of poverty itself, sending kids to bed hungry or without a home or without access to necessary medical care. It is the violence of being mistreated and exploited every day we show up to work. Increasingly, it is the violence of having our lives turned upside down by the effects of climate disruption. These are all forms of violence in this society.

The system of capitalism values human life and the planet only as resources to be exploited and profited from, creating wealth only for those in positions of power. Their entire system is organized violence against the majority of people and the planet — it is their system that is killing us! We must not accept the violence of this society, where mass shootings and brutality have come to be seen as normal parts of daily life.

Democrats and Republicans use every mass shooting as an opportunity to get on television and beg for votes as they debate weapons bans and background checks. In the end, they talk a lot, and nothing changes because they both defend the very system that produces this violence in the first place. They continue to point at the symptoms while defending the system that is the cause.

The truth is, we live in a society that cannot keep us safe. As long as the conditions generated by this system continue, the violence in society will remain. It is time to turn our attention and focus our energy to change the very system that perpetuates this violence.