I shit you not, this Saturday you can give blood to help victims of gun violence, and pick up supplies to perpetrate your very own gun violence, all in one stop.
The Arkansas Blood Institute is hosting a blood drive this Saturday in response to this week’s shooting murders of four Michigan high school students. It’s a lovely gesture for the touch-and-go students and a teacher who are still fighting to survive their bullet wounds, although obviously too late to help the four who already succumbed. The location for the blood drive is the Bass Pro Shop parking lot, where if you like, you can purchase a 9 mm semiautomatic Sig Sauer pistol just like the one the 15-year-old sophomore used to murder and maim.
A press release about the blood drive arrived in the newsroom today, a trumpeting announcement inviting do-gooders to come out and do some good. And while we’re happy to help get the word out, one can’t help but wonder how nobody saw the irony here. Or maybe they did and just didn’t care? To be fair, ironies like this one are impossible to escape in the United States circa 2021, where we love our kids, but love our guns more.
Basic logistics suggest Arkansas blood is unlikely to make it into the veins of injured Michiganders. Still, the sentiment is nice. The need for blood usually goes up around the holidays, in Michigan and everywhere else. Plus, here’s a great opportunity to pretend you’re doing something about gun violence without actually doing anything about gun violence at all. Expect to see some NRA-endorsed Republican politicians there with sleeves rolled up. School shootings have become America’s signature move, and no amount of junior-sized body bags seem to convince these NRA-owned lawmakers that maybe giving the gun lobby and gun manufacturers free rein isn’t a healthy idea.
The school shooting in Michigan on Tuesday has a few unique traits. The gun used was a brand new one, a Black Friday purchase by the dad of the shooter. We don’t yet know much about the gunman. But his name hasn’t yet been released and he’s reportedly on suicide watch in a juvenile detention facility, which means we can safely assume he’s white. Black kids who shoot other kids tend to get publicly named and charged as adults right off the bat.
Gun violence rates, and school shooting rates especially, have been spiking up in recent years, as chest-thumping Trumpublicans arm themselves for civil war or whatever, and cunning lobbyists push through stand your ground laws to help white men get away with murder. This year is on pace to be the worst for gun violence in decades.
The vast majority of Americans, Republican and Democrat alike, oppose our insane menu of laws that put our children in the crosshairs by making guns available anytime, anywhere, for pretty much anyone. But the majority of lawmakers clearly think our laws are fine. And doing the unglamorous grassroots work of fighting the NRA’s bought-and-paid-for operatives in Congress and state houses is a slog. An exhausting, heartbreaking slog.
It would be cool if voters would call their representatives today and ask for meaningful gun safety legislation, like universal background checks and safe storage requirements so 15-year-olds can’t just pick up dad’s new gun and pick off their classmates.
Or you can just go give some blood from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Bass Pro Shop parking lot if it makes you feel better.