Following the horrific slaughter of nineteen young children and their teachers in Uvalde, Texas, Republicans in the United States Senate and at other levels of government have confined themselves to expressing profound sorrow for the loss of life and trauma inflicted upon the survivors, while refusing to commit to taking so much as a single step to prevent it from happening again.
From Texas Governor Greg Abbott and his Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick to Senators Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz, and Lindsey Graham, the response was pretty much uniformly the same: Offer meaningless “thoughts and prayers,” decry the demand for action from progressives as politicizing a tragedy, and nonsensically argue that guns aren’t the problem even though pretty much everyone knows they are the problem, even if they aren’t willing to admit it.
“Inevitably when there’s a murder of this kind, you see politicians try to politicize it, you see Democrats and a lot of folks in the media whose immediate solution is to try to restrict the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens… That doesn’t work. It’s not effective. It doesn’t prevent crime.”
– Ted Cruz, U.S. Senator from Texas
“The truth of the matter is these people are going to commit these horrifying crimes, whether they have to use another weapon to do it, they’re going to figure out a way to do it.”
– Marco Rubio, U.S. Senator from Florida
“People that are shooting people, that are killing kids, they’re not following murder laws. They’re not going to follow gun laws. I’d much rather have law-abiding citizens armed and trained so that they can respond when something like this happens because it’s not going to be the last time.”
– Ken Paxton, indicted Texas Attorney General
“We have to harden these targets so that no one can get in ever except through one entrance.. Maybe that would help. Maybe that would stop someone.”
– Dan Patrick, Lieutenant Governor of Texas
These responses illuminate just how powerful the gun lobby’s hold on the Republican Party is. Republicans cannot go against the NRA and the groups aligned with it, not even after the slaughter of schoolchildren and their teachers in a Republican-run state. Even Donald Trump can’t. When he flirted with embracing a few gun safety ideas back in the days when he occupied the Oval Office, the alarmed gun lobby made it clear that he needed to reverse course. And he did.
Similarly, Abbott and Patrick had to do a U‑turn after expressing openness to some modest gun safety reforms after previous mass shootings in Texas.
Abbott is so accepting of violence in his state nowadays that it was business as usual for his political operation last night. That’s right: he was at a fundraiser for his reelection campaign three hundred miles away from Uvalde as police and families were working on identifying the bodies of dead schoolchildren.
Meanwhile, Mitt Romney tweeted: “Grief overwhelms the soul. Children slaughtered. Lives extinguished. Parents’ hearts wrenched. Incomprehensible. I offer prayer and condolence but know that it is grossly inadequate.”
“We must find answers,” Romney added.
To which Qasim Rashid responded: “Mitt Romney is America’s #1 recipient of NRA money, with $13,647,676 in NRA contributions in his bank.”
The gun lobby’s position is simple: Guns are always good, gun safety laws are always bad. There once was a time when the NRA actually supported some gun safety measures, but those days have long since passed. Nowadays, the NRA toes the lobby’s extremist line. That means that any action that might result in fewer guns in fewer hands is unacceptable, whether it’s legislation, an executive order, or even a policy implemented by a private entity such as a retailer.
Ironically, despite maintaining a posture that guns are always good and the answer to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, the NRA has allowed the Secret Service to create gun free zones at its events. That includes the coming NRA meeting in Houston this weekend, at which Donald Trump will speak:
According to the NRA, the Secret Service is taking control of the hall during Trump’s speech and is prohibiting attendees from having firearms, firearms accessories and knives. Ammunition, laser pointers, pepper spray, toy guns, backpacks and other items also won’t be allowed. The Secret Service will search attendees with magnetometers before they enter the hall, the NRA said.
If the NRA can accept gun free zones for Donald Trump and Mike Pence — and at its own conventions, no less — why can’t it accept them for schoolchildren and teachers? Don’t America’s youth deserve the same safe environment that is afforded to a former Republican president and vice president?
As President Biden said last night, every other developed country has put a stop to mass shootings by implementing gun safety measures. The United States has not. Strident, reflexive, and unyielding Republican opposition has blocked any and every gun safety proposal in Congress going back several decades.
“I just got off my trip from Asia, meeting with Asian leaders, and I learned of this while I was on the aircraft,” the President recalled, weary and disgusted.
“And what struck me on that seventeen hour flight — what struck me was these kinds of mass shootings rarely happen anywhere else in the world.”
“Why? They have mental health problems. They have domestic disputes in other countries. They have people who are lost. But these kinds of mass shootings never happen with the kind of frequency that they happen in America.”
“Why? Why are we willing to live with this carnage?”
“Why do we keep letting this happen? Where in God’s name is our backbone to have the courage to deal with it and stand up to the lobbies?”
Democrats, for the most part, have found their backbone and are willing to take action: the House of Representatives has passed multiple gun safety bills this Congress. They have languished in the Senate, where Democrats have a bare majority to confirm President Biden’s nominees, but not to pass legislation, owing to Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin, who behave more like Republicans than Democrats and are unwilling to exempt legislation from the filibuster (well, except for legislation to let Republicans off the hook from raising the debt limit).
Manchin told reporters he would do “anything I can” to help. Pressed about reforming the filibuster, he affirmed that that was still a no-go for him.
“So, then, not ‘anything,’ ” commented civil rights leader Sherrilyn Ifill.
Manchin’s opposition to reforming the filibuster would not matter if ten Republicans in the Senate would agree to buck the gun lobby and send the bills the House passed to President Biden’s desk. But not a single one will.
Almost ten years ago, Newtown was assaulted, in every sense, by gun violence. Yesterday, it was Uvalde. We don’t know what community will be next, but we do know that if we don’t act to protect Americans, there will be more attacks like this. Republican officials were complicit in yesterday’s horror in Uvalde, and they will be complicit in the slaughters to come if they continue this shameful behavior.