50.50: Opinion

The US Right knows more guns won’t solve violence. It just doesn’t care

25 people have died in mass shootings since Uvalde. Even NRA members know we’re safer without deadly weapons

Chrissy Stroop
Chrissy Stroop
10 June 2022, 12.00am
Mourners gather at a memorial at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on 29 May, 2022
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Jon Farina/UPI Credit: UPI/Alamy Live News

On June 4, 2022, Chris Murphy, the Democratic senator from Connecticut and gun control advocate, tweeted: “Your morning reminder that in the 10 days since Uvalde, there have been 20 more mass shootings in the United States. In those 20 massacres, 91 were shot and injured and so far, 19 died.”

Since then, the numbers have risen to 36 mass shootings – defined as four or more persons other than the perpetrator shot in one incident at one location – 97 injuries, and 25 fatalities, all in the space of a mere two weeks.

These are the figures that stand as of this writing, on the morning of 8 June. By the time this column is published, it will be surprising if the numbers aren’t higher still. Mass shootings have become such an everyday part of American life that most of them don’t make national headlines.

Gunshots are now the leading cause of death for young Americans (up to age 24), having eclipsed motor vehicle accidents several years ago. And after Uvalde, as usual, Republicans doubled down on their demonstrably false claims that gun control “doesn’t work” as a means of mitigating the damage from what we might well deem America’s other pandemic – gun violence.

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While the United States arguably managed at least a halfway serious response to COVID-19 (in parts of the country inhabited primarily by liberals and progressives, anyway), any even remotely serious plan to address gun violence through public policy is blocked by state-level and national Republican obstruction.

The authoritarian Republican Party ruthlessly uses the disproportionate power afforded to it by America’s unfair system of state representation to hold us back from progress on gun control, while pushing us ever further backwards in terms of women’s, LGBTQ, and minority rights.

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The Republican party has a white Christian nationalist vision for the US, and is stopping solutions to gun violence

America is so fundamentally unserious about addressing the gun violence pandemic that we allow gun manufacturers to stoke the flames of our not-so-cold culture war with abandon, literally selling guns inscribed with Bible verses and given unsubtly racist and Islamophobic names like “the Crusader,” as Spike’s Tactical calls its AR-15 style rifle.

The gun is stamped with Psalm 144: “Praise be to the LORD my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle. He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me.”

As history professor Thomas Lecaque observes, the gun is also marked with a Templar cross, and its three safety settings are called “Pax Pacis, Bellum, and Deus Vult” – that is, “Peace, War, and God Wills It.”

Imagery associated with the Knights Templar and the phrase “deus vult” is commonly used in alt-right memes, meaning the gun’s branding is unsubtly designed to appeal to both conservative Christians and white supremacists (groups with which there is, of course, considerable overlap).

Meanwhile, the Republican Party continues to march in lockstep with the National Rifle Association, even as that organisation experiences declines in membership and revenues. As ABC News reports, however, the decline of the NRA may not have much impact on our gun violence problem.

It is possible “that the NRA’s message has become so deeply ingrained among gun rights advocates that the organisation no longer requires a robust political operation”.

The NRA is, in any case, still capable of funnelling tens of millions of dollars into elections, and Republicans still seek its stamp of approval.

The NRA held its 2022 convention in Houston, Texas, from 27 to 29 May, just a few days after the Uvalde shooting that killed 22 people and injured 17 others. After considerable public outcry about their planned speaking engagements at the convention, Texas governor Greg Abbott and some other prominent Republican politicians cancelled their in-person appearances – in many cases, however, reiterating their absolute opposition to reasonable gun restrictions and support for the NRA. Abbott also provided a pre-recorded video message.

Meanwhile, Texas senator Ted Cruz – who tried to use his position in the Senate to overturn the valid results of the 2020 presidential election on 6 January 2021 – attended as planned, as did Donald Trump.

In a move that many on social media derided as hypocritical, NRA convention attendees were barred from carrying their weapons while attending Trump’s speech, in which the former president called for “strong exterior fencing, metal detectors and the use of new technology to make sure that no unauthorised individual can ever enter the school with a weapon”.

Of course, there is no realistic plan in place to fund such extreme security measures, and Republicans work at every turn to defund and undermine public education – never mind that schools shouldn’t have to operate like prisons in order to be spaces where students, teachers, and staff can feel safe and secure. One is forced to conclude that Republicans simply do not value human life.

After all, the Secret Service, which protects presidents and former presidents, understands that we are not all safer in spaces where everyone is carrying a deadly weapon. And no one at this year’s NRA convention seems to have raised an outcry about not being allowed to carry while listening to Trump’s speech.

On some level, America’s white conservative Christian gun fanatics – the people who still manage to cause so much harm to our society despite being officially out of power at the national level – understand that “a good guy with a gun” is no solution to a pandemic of “bad guys with guns”. They know. They just don’t care.

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