ANOTHER terrible school massacre in the States. Even as you share the grief, you shake your head at what could have been prevented.

The fact that it’s far easier to get a gun license than a driving license in the US is one thing. The kind of weapons that the gun license gives you access to is another. Cruz’s firearm was an AR-15 – exactly the same (or a parallel brand) was used at Newtown school in 2012, the Pulse nightclub in 2016, the Mandalay Music Festival last October, and the Sutherland Springs Church a month later.

Its bullets pierce a steel helmet at 500 yards. Used up close in the schoolrooms at Parkland, the carnage is best not imagined too exactly. Yet Nikolas Cruz had bought his AR-15 entirely legally, under Florida rules.

In his usual role as national disgrace, Trump has immediately put the problem down to the community’s inability to detect those who are “mentally disturbed” – not the terrifying ubiquity of military-grade weapons.

But the great baboon actually signed-off a Republican bill in early 2017, reversing laws that made it harder for people with mental illnesses to own a gun. (Laws originally passed by Obama, after the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre in 2013).

There is a style of response from the American commentariat which tries to shame their domestic gun lobbies with international comparisons.

“If we had gun laws like the gun laws in Canada and Britain, we would have gun violence at the level that it exists in Canada and Britain”, writes the New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik. “There is no special American quiddity that would alter this — to insist otherwise is as irrational as insisting that American kids shouldn’t be immunised because American kids have a different kind of immunity than other kids.”

Yet the cultural attitudes that might impel Americans to support the kind of gun laws that the UK passed after Dunblane, or Australia after Port Arthur, are – in my view – fatally lacking.

Nearly 20 years ago now, I did a tour of the US on behalf of Radio Scotland, charting the cultures and characters of American violence.

I dug out the digital soundfile on Thursday, and found much of the material immediately relevant. On the contrary, Mr Gopnik, I think there is a “special quiddity” to the gunplay of American life. Two decades ago, it seemed to pervade every corner and niche of the social fabric of the Republic. Can we say any less now?

In New York, we hung out with with Melanie in her gun training range, who brandished her pearl handed shooter. She stated flatly that the rape her friend suffered would not happen to her – thus, the twin-barrelled shotgun in her bedroom. (In her blond wig, catsuit and giant diamante sunglasses, she was fabulously intimidating).

Yet even the smiling Latino activist I met, pushing for gun amnesties in his city, said he had a gun in his home. As did the fragile Los Angelean academic, critiquing powerfully the endemic violence of American society. Yet he was still so freaked by the evening perp pursuits from police helicopters overhead that he stored a gun in his bedside cabinet.

All these characters knew the biggest percentage of death by handgun in America was via domestic disputes – the sheer availability of them, like cigarettes, make daily life toxic in America. But there they were to hand, nevertheless – always just an arm-stretch away.

When we visited Oklahoma, we sought out the state’s foremost representative of the National Rifle Association. He was a bear of a man, inscrutable behind his shades, drawling his certainties about the American right to bear arms.

Our show was only a few months before the Oklahoma bombings. It’s slightly weird to hear me present him with reports I’d read about local militias, scheming to attack government buildings.

As I listen back, it’s clear that he knew of these groups (though he termed them “the fringe element that attaches to any large organisation”). “We’re not trying to overthrow the government”, he states at one point. No, I thought at the time, but you’re certainly aware of those who are. Let’s see whether these sulphurous currents shaped Nikolas Cruz’s motivations.

There was the twinkling granny on the range, who talked her blond grandchildren through the routines of good gun-discipline. Gunfire is a fundamental element of American rural life. “We fire a bullet here, and it travels in the wilderness until it falls to the ground”, as one NRA person said. “Or hits an animal.”

My final interview was with Susan Straight and her then husband Dwayne. Dwayne was a youth correctional officer: Susan was a short-story writing housewife, who had discovered her husband’s secret love for guns, and written about it for Harper’s magazine.

Riverside, their Los Angeles suburb, looked like a digital rendering from Pixar that night – a perfect syrup glow over large, sprawling houses. But statistically, at the time, it had one of the steepest murder rates in America.

Dwayne, who looked like an even more chilled-out Forrest Whitaker, opened his garage door – the neighbours strolling by, peering in – and showed me, with no small pride, his mini-armoury. A wall of weaponry, as banally stacked as rakes for the grass or extendable ladders.

In the radio show, we tried to go to the deeper history, citing the Second Amendment of the constitution, detailing the right of a popular militia to bear arms.

How enduring was the frontier myth – a nation mastered at the end of the barrel of a gun? And how much of that was channelled and focussed by Trump’s “America First” slogan?

Some academics we spoke to tried to separate out America’s styles of violence. There was the image of the “soldier”, who does the disciplined work of defending the nation’s security.

But this was not the same as the image of the “warrior”, who transgresses all boundaries to exact revenge on his enemies.

Since that 90’s show, 9/11 happened. And whatever else that did, it meshed the soldier and the warrior together. American warcraft now surveils and drones the dusty world, enacting retribution with self-proclaimed precision. This has produced its own terror blowbacks on domestic soil, and no doubt will continue to do so.

Our radio show ended up with a tentative thesis that, perhaps, “a more pacific America in the world would make for a more pacific America in its own streets”. Since then, the paradox of Obama – publicly anguishing before his own brace of suburban massacres, while privately signing off his drone “kill-list” every Tuesday morning – has collapsed into the gangster clumsiness of Trump. Anything’s now possible. And not remotely for the best.

We should spare our moments to mourn with the Parkland families. But American violence as quotidian as a disturbed teen outsider with an army gun, as global as a narcissist with his hands on the nuclear codes – is weird, mighty, pervasive and irrepressible. At least, compared with this everyday pathology, these islands are evidently not the 51st state. Yet.