The MAGA-Gun Lobby’s rationalization of mass shootings

Gun Rights

This is the second of a three-part series examining the rationale and language of the pro-gun lobby and proposing language to oppose and counter its arguments. Here is Part 1.

Because of the MAGA-gun lobby’s opposition to any new gun law, we’ve seen criminals get guns and carry out 147 mass shootings in the first 100 days this year.  Rather than change course and figure out how to prevent the next one, the MAGA-gun lobby rationalizes the carnage with these arguments:

Riju Das

“Give me liberty or give me death” Because the MAGA-Gun Lobby wants unfettered Second Amendment liberty, even if it means Second Amendment liberties for criminals, the shooting death of someone else’s child is just the price we pay, they say. When faced with the dilemma that more liberty for criminals means less life for the law-abiding, the MAGA-gun lobby has chosen liberty over life. They think, as unrealistic as it is, that they’ll always be able to protect themselves from armed criminals, always being awake and ready and never turning their back or having a slower reaction time. 

But MAGA’s instincts are questionable.  We saw their instincts in prioritizing liberty over life unfold at the beginning of Covid as they wanted to continue their pre-pandemic freedom.  The result was to risk — and lose – their lives.  It reminded us that we can’t have liberty without life. 

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Similarly, too many armed law-abiding Americans lose their lives to armed criminals regularly.  As one of many examples, this year in Milwaukee, a police officer was shot and killed by an armed robbery suspect while trying to arrest him.  Weeks ago in the Louisville bank shooting, two officers, both armed, responded to the scene and were shot by the suspect, with the younger officer being shot in the head and left fighting for his life.

Religion. Many MAGA supporters whose religion guides them excuse a mass shooting with the belief that it was just in the stars. So when someone’s child is shot and killed, it’s a tragedy no doubt, but, hey, that was just God’s plan. This religious view, however, differs with other religions, which teach that a higher power is guiding people not to simply accept loss of life but rather to work hard to prevent the loss of life to begin with.

Personally-affected v. empathy for others. For the MAGA-Gun Lobby, even though life is worth risking to have liberty, and even though God may have intended for someone’s child to be harmed, they won’t consider new gun laws unless they or their child would be personally harmed by weak gun laws. Guided by individualism over empathy, conservatives like the Ohio Congressman and the Tennessee governor announced new public support for banning assault weapons and red flag laws, respectively, after they were personally affected.

The MAGA-Gun Lobby’s theories on mass shootings

While rationalizing mass shootings, the MAGA-Gun Lobby has its own ideas on why they occur.  They’ve offered a few solutions with the belief that these, and only these, proposals will prevent more gun violence: 

Mental health:  The MAGA-Gun Lobby has become comfortable attributing every atrocity to mental health, but they haven’t done much to address mental health to stop the next shooting.  Even still, many people with mental health problems do not commit gun violence.  So while more mental health resources need to be provided, the problem of mass shootings can’t just be chalked up to a widespread mental health problem. 

Eliminate gun-free zones: The MAGA-Gun Lobby firmly believes that if more law-abiding people were armed, especially in a gun-free zone such as a school, law-abiding people could stop a mass shooter.  However, this idea doesn’t address how mass shootings occur outside of gun-free zones where law-abiding people are armed and still are shot or killed.  The Louisville bank shooting is one example.  The Las Vegas festival shooting is another:  some of the performers were armed but conceded that they couldn’t stop the shooter, with one performer saying their guns “were useless.”

Armed teachers and school security guards:  At a Michigan high school shooting in 2021, an armed guard couldn’t stop a student from killing four of his classmates.  Still, while armed security guards may help protect some schools, how helpful will a school guard be when the next mass shooting is at the grocery store?

Reactive v. preventative:  MAGA often calls on law enforcement to better enforce the gun laws already on the books rather than pass new laws.  In effect, the MAGA-Gun Lobby wants to only prosecute a crime that’s already happened rather than also work on stopping the next crime from happening. 

Gun-safety advocates, on the other hand, want both – because being reactive without also being preventative doesn’t solve the problem.  What’s maddening, though, is that MAGA fought tooth and nail against passage of the gun laws that they now say they want enforced. 

In other words, if those laws were enforced, MAGA says the gun crime would not have occurred.  So why did MAGA oppose passage of the gun law to begin with?  Red flag laws are an example. 

After the Colorado nightclub shooting late last year, law enforcement’s failure to enforce the state’s red flag law was determined to be a cause.  A number of local Colorado sheriffs had declared a few years earlier, after the law’s passage, that they wouldn’t enforce the law.  Following the nightclub shooting, when gun-safety advocates called to strengthen the state’s gun laws, the MAGA-Gun Lobby opposed new laws, instead blaming the shooting on the state’s failure to enforce the state’s existing laws. 

Among the state’s existing laws, though, was its red flag law – the kind of red flag law that the MAGA-Gun Lobby opposed months before when Congress debated passing a national red flag law for all states after the Uvalde massacre.  This flaky inconsistency, therefore, just diminishes their credibility. 

Mourn the decline of traditional American culture, religion, and family – and hope to restore it: life was so much better and safer 50 years ago, MAGA believe, when more people went to church, only one parent worked outside the home, and kids played fewer videogames. 

What MAGA glosses over, however, is the amount of gun crime that existed then. By 1969, two of every three homicides were estimated to be committed with a gun, similar to an estimate made in 2013.  Thus, forcing people today to live like their ancestors doesn’t appear to be the best solution to prevent the next mass shooting.

These proposals, designed to distract from real, proven solutions, are smoke and mirrors as they alone, with their loopholes and inconsistencies, won’t work at preventing the next mass shooting. 

Gun-safety messaging on the need to pass new gun laws to protect the law-abiding from criminals

Gun-safety advocates, meanwhile, have continued to propose solutions that have proven to work.  The strongest solution would be to pass Connecticut’s gun laws in all 50 states.
Connecticut is a model for many things for the country; at the top of that list is its gun laws:  complete (universal) background checks (on anyone engaged in a gun transaction), red flag laws, standardizing magazines for civilian use to up to 10 rounds of ammunition, and preserving assault weapons for military use only.  While Connecticut can’t necessarily prevent criminals from going to a state with weaker gun laws to obtain firearms, the result of Connecticut’s gun laws is about as strong as you’d expect.  Since Sandy Hook, Connecticut has had no shooting of greater than three casualties.
Of course, Connecticut can do more to keep criminals from getting guns.  Nonetheless, to advance Connecticut’s solutions across the country, four core arguments can help to sell them:

Who’s next? (Will it be you or your kid today?): With there being 147 mass shootings this year in the first 100 days, will the next mass shooting victim be you or your kid, and will it be today?

This panic emerged following Uvalde as many Americans began to realize how unsafe it’s become to leave their house. Because, as stated above, conservatives often don’t care as much about something until they’re personally affected by it, getting them to understand that they or their child could be the next victim will personalize the urgency of the matter for them to embrace gun policies that actually keep them safe.

Each day, 12 kids in the U.S. are killed by a gun. And unbelievably, one in five Americans now say a family member has been killed by a gun. Thus, the MAGA-Gun Lobby needs to continue to be reminded that each morning they wake up, it could be their child’s turn that day.

The 2nd Amendment is for the law-abiding, not for criminals: whereas the 2nd Amendment begins with, “A well regulated Militia,” the MAGA-Gun Lobby has aimed to rewrite it to read, “A no regulated Militia,” eliminating and blocking gun laws and regulations. The result has been to expand the scope of the 2nd Amendment to give gun rights and guns to criminals – who are then disarming and killing the law-abiding.In Connecticut, two officers last year, responding to a fake 911 call, were ambushed, shot, and killed at a home by its occupant. The tragedy is one of many that refutes the Gun Lobby’s famous response to Sandy Hook when the head of the NRA said, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Ten years later, we’ve seen the opposite happening:  the only thing that’s stopped a *good* guy with a gun is a *bad* guy with a gun. We saw it at the recent Louisville bank shooting where an armed officer (good guy with a gun) was shot in the head by the suspect (bad guy with a gun) while the suspect also killed five. Thus, new gun laws are needed to ensure that criminals cannot get guns, leaving the 2nd Amendment for the law-abiding only.

Regulation is not confiscation:  the MAGA-Gun Lobby’s use of the term “gun control” distracts from what’s really important:  criminal control.  Guns don’t kill people, but criminals with guns do.  While it may be harder to do something about criminals who already have guns, we can much more easily stop future criminals before they disarm the law-abiding. The way to do so: pass new gun laws that help to disarm future criminals without disarming the law-abiding – or, in other words, pass Connecticut’s gun laws in all 50 states. 

Political theater v. actual solutions: MAGA-Gun Lobby proposals on gun violence, such as those above, are political theater – as the proposals haven’t worked at stopping the next mass shooting.  Indeed, the Gun Lobby has grandstanded to distract from, and delay, solutions proposed and passed by gun-safety advocates that have actually reduced mass shootings in states like Connecticut.  Translation:  more gun laws that make it harder for criminals to get guns means fewer mass shootings.

Tomorrow: How to rebut the MAGA-gun lobby’s talking points.

Riju Das is an attorney from Hartford.

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