When given a choice between saving their voters’ lives or promoting the guns that lead to deaths, Republicans consistently tag-team with the Grim Reaper. Take America’s favorite firearms enthusiast, Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., who promised to wear a Glock to Congress. In a speech on the House floor Wednesday, she said: “A recent report states that Americans own 46% of the world’s guns. I think we need to get our numbers up.”
If only Boebert felt the same way about books, American kids might have a shot at being great again. Unfortunately, they’re too busy trying to survive and avoid getting shot at school.
Boebert, along with Republican presidential hopefuls such as Govs. Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas, appear to believe allowing more people to carry concealed guns without training or permits is the most sane and logical choice to reduce violent crime, protect children and promote freedom.
In 2023, we’ve experienced more than 50 mass shootings in America, according to Gun Violence Archive. It’s only the beginning of February. Republican leaders don’t need to respond to mass shootings with pro-life measures, such as responsible gun control, because they know their MAGA base will continue to vote against its own interests because of racial resentment and the never-ending culture war against the libs.
Why fix what works — even if it remains broken, violent and self-destructive?
Cue the “constitutional carry” law. Florida is expected to join Texas and 24 other states in allowing permitless carry in a country that has 330 million people and even more guns. On Monday, 11 people were wounded in a drive-by shooting in Florida.
Cynically, DeSantis and other Republican leaders have recognized that the MAGA base will ride and die for this right-wing culture war predominantly animated by fear and racial anxiety. Dr. Jonathan Metzl, an author and psychiatrist, studied this phenomenon and coined the term “dying of whiteness,” which he expanded upon in his book of the same name published in 2019. Specifically, such white victimhood and rage are being deliberately manipulated by conservative politicians to win over — and kill — their own voters. In Missouri, Republican officials used racial resentment against people of color to weaken gun control laws, which tragically led to an increase in gun-related suicides and shooting deaths among white men. Tennessee refused to expand Medicaid as allowed under Obamacare, in part, as a middle finger to the first Black president.
The right to bear arms is “central to our freedom,” according to Florida House Speaker Paul Renner, who introduced the bill Monday. In Florida, and increasingly across other states where Republicans control the government, “wokeness,” books written by Black authors, AP African American studies and diversity initiatives are not central to freedom but are worthy of bans. But you’re still free to shoot at the First Amendment with an AR-15 — and peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters who are exercising it — thanks to the Second Amendment, which remains sacrosanct for Republican lawmakers.
One could rationalize the concealed carry law if it indeed reduced crime, but research compiled by the Center for American Progress shows that these laws have actually increased violent crimes and helped lead to a rise in officer-involved shootings and altercations. Specifically, a 2022 study found a 22% increase in gun homicides for the three years after the law passed. It bears reminding that in 2018, a mass shooting at a high school in Florida left 17 people dead. Last year, firearms became the No. 1 cause of death for children in the U.S. And despite having stood on so many unnecessary chalk lines and graveyards, DeSantis and other Republicans still have the audacity to say they are “pro-life,” even though they don’t support commonsense gun control measures, such as universal background checks and the ban of assault weapons.
Zeroing in on Florida, Republicans’ pro-gun policies have actually enabled crime. Ever since DeSantis took office in 2019, there’s been a surge in gun-related violence in Florida. In 2021, he signed a law that allows Floridians to take their concealed weapons to religious houses of worship that share properties with schools. Nothing would make me pray to God more than seeing a Glock 19 on an annoyed uncle during Friday prayers at a mosque. And when I attended my all-boys Jesuit high school, I must have missed that section of the Bible where Jesus told his disciples to share the bread, pass the ammo and own the libs.
Republican leaders know that some MAGA voters aren’t just willing to die for whiteness but that they’re willing to kill for it, as well. Historically, guns have been the weapons of choice for white men to keep “the woke” in their place. Not much has changed. A study found that white Americans who express high levels of anti-Black sentiment “are less likely to support some gun rights if they believe Black people are exercising those rights more than white people.”
White people who have used or threatened violence against Black people and their allies have been consistently elevated by the GOP. In St. Louis, Patricia and Mark McCloskey, who illegally brandished guns against peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters, pleaded guilty to misdemeanors after they were rewarded with a prime slot at the 2020 Republican National Convention. In Wisconsin, Kyle Rittenhouse shot and killed two people at a BLM protest. He has since become a conservative hero. Seeking to claim the MAGA crown, DeSantis was one of the first Republican leaders to praise and defend him after his acquittal: “Kyle Rittenhouse did what we should want citizens to do in such a situation: step forward to defend the community against mob violence.”
Republican lawmakers now publicly share holiday photos of their family members, including children, holding guns instead of presents. Some MAGA Republicans in Congress have begun replacing their American flag pins with assault-style rifle pins. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., a potential vice presidential candidate in 2024, is referring to violent insurrectionists as political prisoners. No one should be surprised that nearly a third of Republican voters polled support using violence to “save” and defend their country.
By promoting permitless carry, Republicans are ratcheting up the weaponization of MAGA’s racial anxiety. They’re empowering their constituents to “stand their ground” against the straw man of “wokeness” and Black people in particular. They are not only providing targets for the unhinged among his base but also perpetuating a 24/7 grievance fest nurtured through dangerous, antisemitic conspiracies of “the deep state” that is allegedly plotting to take away conservatives’ guns and gas stoves.
On Jan. 12, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, summed up the entire GOP platform when he tweeted: “Gods. Guns. Gas Stoves.” It seems like a “Saturday Night Live” sketch that was cut for time, but sadly, this is America, when one of the two political parties is actively siding with death to win political seats.
In Florida, DeSantis is happily exploiting his power to arm his MAGA base to fight a manufactured culture war that will bolster his political ambitions. Dead Republican voters, increased gun-related violence and mass shootings are the acceptable means to presidential ends.
It seems the only hope left for gun control in red states is to hide all the bullets in books written by Black people.