Ten days after an 18-year-old maleA semi-automatic weapon was used by the attacker to rob a Buffalo grocery store. He was wearing body armor and a semiautomatic gun. He also targeted ten Black customers. another 18-year-old male,Armed with a fully loaded gun, he entered an elementary school in Uvalde Texas. He killed 21 people, 19 among them children under 10.
It is hard to hear the echoes of the Charleston massacre of 2015 and the Sandy Hook massacre of 2012. Yet, it keeps happening.
There was a time that we thought the school shooting would be the end. The horror suffered by the victims’ families would shock the collective conscience. And back in 2012, it did.But for a brief moment. There was bipartisan agreement on Capitol Hill, law enforcement and right-wing media were in accord, and even the NRA’s board understood that this had crossed a line. A teenage boy had gotten a semi-automatic gun, killed his mother, and shot 20 first-graders as well as six teachers at an elementary school. There had to be something.
Wayne LaPierre was the undisputed leader and head of the National Rifle Association. He appeared at a press conference in Washington at which everyone expected him to offer a compromise on the NRA’s rigid refusal to contemplate any gun reform measures at all. But he didn’t. Instead, he delivered a fiery speech that was a real barn burner. He famously proclaimed:
The only way — the only way — to stop a monster from killing our kids is to be personally involved and invested in a plan of absolute protection. Only a good man with a gun can stop a bad guy. What if, when Adam Lanza started shooting his way into Sandy Hook elementary school last Friday, he’d been confronted by qualified armed security?
From that point on, all reforms to the gun laws were stalled. The gun lobby held the right in its grips and the right never again engaged in good faith. Even the horrifying image of grade school kids being sprayed with semi-automatic gunfire didn’t move them.
The NRA and LaPierre have since been disgraced in a series of financial scandals but as is so common on the right, their dishonesty and corruption haven’t reduced their clout with the GOP. They are actually holding their annual meeting in Texas this Friday.
🇺🇸 Just a few days left until President Trump speaks at NRA’s Annual Meeting for the 6th time!
— NRA (@NRA) May 24, 2022
LaPierre’s “good guy with a gun” speech laid down the law that the only acceptable response to mass gun violence was to call for more guns — arming teachers, armed security in public buildings, arming parishioners in churches etc. It is still in force today. They speak of “hardening targets” and recommending open carry laws that allow average “good guys” to be armed and ready at all times to try to stop a committed mass murderer. Yesterday, all of them spewed the party line after the shooting.
Texas Lt Gov Dan Patrick on the latest school shooting in Texas: “We have to harden these targets.” pic.twitter.com/aG3sPGQzei
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) May 25, 2022
Cruz: “We know from past experience that the most effective tool for keeping kids safe is armed law enforcement on campus.”
Asking honestly: What evidence is there to support this claim?
— Derek Thompson (@DKThomp) May 25, 2022
When people are asked why they don’t like this solution, Fox News’s Jeanine Pirro said it’s because they are “triggered if there is someone with a gun, they are frightened, that is this new narrative. You see a gun, you should be frightened as opposed to appreciating what they are doing for you!” People being afraid of guns. This is what you can imagine.
As it happens, this fatuous “good guy with a gun” nonsense has been fully refuted by the recent mass killings. The Texas and New York murderers encountered armed security guards and police officers. They were able to stop them by wearing body armor. One of the attackers successfully killed the Buffalo ex-police officer who was guarding the store, while the other injured several officers. It took a SWAT team to finally bring Tuesday’s shooter down.
One would think that banning body armor for personal use would be a no-brainer but it’s widely considered by the gun activists to fall under the 2nd Amendment, so any hope of banning its use is probably also off-limits. Gun proliferation zealots insist they need it for civil war and when the snowflake liberals knock on their doors. Breaking the law filibuster for any gun-related legislation is impossible and the far-right judiciary probably wouldn’t uphold it anyway.
Since 2008, when the Supreme Court declared in its first instance in District of Columbia v. Heller that the 2nd Amendment provides an individual right to bear arms, Republican-run states have been loosening their gun laws to the point they really don’t exist in some places like Texas. The killer went out on his 18th birthday to buy himself two semi-automatic rifles. The Texas law banning anyone under 21 from possessing or owning firearms was repealed by 2019. New York doesn’t bar 18year olds from buying guns either and for reasons that are unclear, the red flag laws designed to alert authorities to a potential shooter with mental illness didn’t work before the Buffalo massacre.
Just this week, a federal three-judge panel ruled that it’s unconstitutional to deny 18-year-olds the right to own guns.
“America would not exist without the heroism of the young adults who fought and died in our revolutionary army,” Judge Ryan Nelson wrote. “Today we reaffirm that our Constitution still protects the right that enabled their sacrifice: the right of young adults to keep and bear arms.”
One can’t help but think of another 18-year-old mass killer, Kyle Rittenhouse, last seen hobnobbing at Mar-a-Lago with Donald Trump, feted by everyone on the right for his heroic killing of three unarmed protesters.
As I wrote a couple of weeks agoThe Supreme Court will issue a decision that is backed by the extremist gun right movement. This term will likely weaken any state with gun restrictions. If the Court goes all the way under a new “text, history and tradition” test, they will declare that public safety is no longer the proper rationale for any gun regulation. You have to wonder if they will take into account whether the American “history and tradition” of young men armed with semi-automatic weapons mowing down masses of innocent people should be considered instead.
Last night, President Biden spoke to America in his capacity as mourner-in chief. He’s always effective at that. He also asked a very important question:
“As a nation we have to ask, ‘When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby? When in God’s name do we do what we all know in our gut needs to be done?”
The Democrats are more than willing, and even able to, stand up to the gun lobby. The question is rightfully asked of Republicans who consistently block all gun safety legislation and are prepared to use the courts to unleash a free-for-all of gun violence in the name of “freedom.” If repeated massacres, even of tiny children, automatically evoke calls to put more guns in schools and on the streets I think we know the answer: Never.
I can’t think of anything that illustrates Republican nihilism more starkly than that.