Given that the Republican Party prides itself on being the “pro-life” party, you might think it would be doing everything in its power to save lives from leading causes of death — like guns, for example. That’s what “pro-life” means, right?
Wrong. The GOP may be experiencing an identity crisis in the post-Trump era, but two things remain constant: opposing measures to save lives from gun violence and stoking fears of brown and Black people to animate the party's overwhelmingly white base.
This GOP cocktail of guns and racism is playing out in front of us right now as the country deals with two horrific mass shootings in the past week that took a total of 18 lives: the first in Atlanta on March 16 and the latest in Boulder, Colorado, on Monday.
In 2020, our nation saw a horrific roughly 25 percent increase in deaths due to gun violence when compared to 2019, with at least 19,380 lives lost, according to the Gun Violence Archive. This includes a nearly 50 percent increase in mass shootings — defined as when four or more people are killed or injured in a shooting — to over 600 incidents. (Mass shootings in public places not surprisingly went down.)
To House Republicans, "pro-life" seems to translate into being more concerned with people having access to guns than protecting lives, which they reminded us with three votes earlier this month.
On March 11, the Democratic-controlled House passed two bills designed to protect people from gun violence.
One measure, H.R. 8, would expand mandatory background checks — which currently are only required when a federally licensed gun dealer is the seller — to apply to all gun sales. The measure is intended to keep guns out of the hands of people with criminal records or a history of mental illness. Despite polling finding that more than 90 percent of Americans historically support universal background checks, of the 211 Republicans in the House, only eight voted in favor of H.R. 8.
The second bill would close the so-called Charleston loophole, which allows people to legally proceed with purchasing a gun if the background check is not completed within three days. This loophole allowed white supremacist Dylann Roof to legally purchase the gun he used to kill nine Black worshippers at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Only two House Republicans supported this measure.
To go by the GOP's actions, “pro-life” also translates into pro-oppression of women, which we saw play out through the recently signed Arkansas law that prohibits a person from getting an abortion if they become pregnant by rape.
Despite polling finding that more than 90 percent of Americans historically support universal background checks, of the 211 Republicans in the House, only eight voted in favor of H.R. 8.
And last week — literally the day after a man allegedly killed seven women in the Atlanta area because he wanted to end the “temptation” they posed to his so-called sex addiction — the House took up reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act that had expired in 2019. The bill included a provision to close what is known as the “boyfriend loophole,” which would expand the current prohibition on spouses and ex-spouses from buying a gun if convicted of domestic violence to include ex-partners. (to be clear, although the Atlanta suspect targeted women, he has not been convicted of domestic violence.)
Given that around three women are killed in our country daily by intimate partners and that abusers with access to firearms are five times more likely to kill a woman they attack, this should have been a measure with broad support. But 172 House Republicans voted no on the VAWA primarily because in their view it would infringe on a man’s right to buy a gun.
One thing the GOP has been hyperfocused on is the crisis at the border, with an influx of migrant children seeking asylum. This is a humanitarian issue that desperately needs to be addressed. But judging from recent events, it looks like the GOP’s goal is to use human suffering to gin up fears of migrants to score political points.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, of California, on March 15 visited the border, where he warned that people on the terror watchlist were trying to sneak over the border. At the time, McCarthy provided no concrete evidence to back up his claim.
On March 16, Axios reported that a Customs and Border Protection representative told Congress that since Oct. 1, four people who had been arrested at the southern border “match names on the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Database.” No information has been provided about whether those people were apprehended under the Trump or Biden administrations or if they were actually the people on the terror watchlist or merely had similar names.
Earlier in March, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott claimed that migrants crossing the border were spreading Covid-19, invoking an age-old trope used by bigots that insinuates that immigrants bring disease. As the Associated Press noted, however, there’s no evidence backing up Abbott’s claim.
While tireless in their efforts to build fear of migrants, the Republican Party is ignoring the very real deadly threat posed to Americans every day by gun violence. Every single day in the United States, more than 100 people are shot and killed. That means tomorrow over 100 Americans will die, and the day after another 100 will die, as a result of gun violence. On average, five of those people killed each day will be children.
The GOP is a lot of things. But pro-human life isn’t one of them. It has, time and time again, shown far more concern about stoking hate for minorities than it has for saving lives from gun violence. But how many more Americans need to die from gun violence before the GOP actually becomes “pro-life”?