Twenty years after 12 students and one teacher were gunned down in Columbine High School in Colorado, the latest massacre by a lone suspect in Florida, which killed 17 people, confirms that the fault-line of 1999 continues to run deep. There have been stout demands in recent years for a ban on military-style rifles and high-capacity magazines; in reality, however, nothing happens. More accurately, from the Democratic to the Republican dispensations, there has been no change in man’s inhumanity to man.

Politicians and legislators have been generally wimpish, or even gutless, on this score and if trends are any indication, the shooting deaths of innocent people in the United States of America have happened on a scale not seen in any other industrialized country. Indeed, double-think runs wild even at the level of the President. In the immediate aftermath of the killings, Mr Trump offered the assurance that he would make “school safety a top priority” and yet stopped short of any mention of gun control in his address to the nation.

Far from any substantive prescription, he was a mite rhetorical in his reference to the mayhem ~ “We are here for you… whatever you need, whatever we can do, to ease your pain”… iterating for good measure that the deaths presented a “scene of terrible violence, hatred and evil.” They really do. More accurately, nothing has materialised … at any rate, not legislatively. The tragic loss of life makes it direly imperative for the country to ban such hideous weapons. Effusive expressions of sympathy count for nothing in the absence of bold action.

Ever since the Sandy Hook killings in 2012, there have been at least 239 school shootings nationwide. At least 438 people have been shot, 138 of whom were killed, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit entity that tracks such shootings. Cold statistics have done but little to lessen the torment, almost national. The donations from the gun lobby, however lucrative, are of lesser moment amidst the horrendous tragedies.

A basic first step would be banning military-style rifles such as the AR-15 and its variants, which were used in Florida last Wednesday, at an Orlando nightclub in 2016, and at a Texas church in 2017. The “bump stocks”, which make semi-automatic rifles act like automatic weapons, and which were used in last year’s massacre in Las Vegas, ought logically to have been banned long ago. Sad to reflect, America is the only country where such tragedies keep happening and almost relentlessly so.

The compulsion can be uniformly repugnant ~ from the colour of the skin which frequently throws up America’s black-and-white syndrome when not an instance of an extreme form of mental aberration as in Florida. Many innocents have perished already, and elected governments in the United States must act. Will they?