It was nearly a month ago when Republican policymakers in Tennessee took an unprecedented step that they said would help protect local children and families: They put ridiculous new restrictions on drag shows.
There wasn’t any real point to their efforts — it wasn’t as if drag shows were hurting anyone or creating a dangerous public menace — but GOP officials became the first in the nation to advance the cultural crusade anyway. Watching the developments unfold from Capitol Hill, Rep. Tim Burchett was delighted with his home state’s new restrictions.
“We don’t put up with that crap in Tennessee,” the Republican congressman said a few weeks ago.
But while Burchett saw drag shows as “crap” that the Volunteer State couldn’t bare to tolerate, the GOP lawmaker appears to have a very different attitude toward deadly school shootings. USA Today reported:
Rep. Tim Burchett, a Tennessee Republican, described the school shooting in his home state as “a horrible, horrible situation,” but it’s not something he thinks Congress needs to address. “We’re not gonna fix it,” he told reporters Tuesday. “Criminals are gonna be criminals.”
As part of the same set of comments to reporters, the congressman went on to reflect on something his father told him. “[I]f somebody wants to take you out and doesn’t mind losing their life, there’s not a whole heck of a lot you can do about it.”
As a factual matter, it’s important for the public to realize that the substance of Burchett’s argument — to the extent that anyone would fairly characterize this as an “argument” — is plainly wrong: Advanced countries around the world have taken steps to prevent routine mass shootings, and their policies have proven quite effective. The United States, where the leading cause of death among children is gun violence, could adopt similar measures to save lives. Politicians like Burchett prefer not to.
Just as notable is the jarring fact that Republicans — a party that occasionally likes to present itself to the electorate as “tough on crime — don’t express this kind of indifference in response to other societal scourges. It’s not as if GOP lawmakers see a spate of carjackings and say, “Criminals are gonna be criminals.”
On the contrary, Republicans tend to believe aggressive law enforcement measures are necessary to protect the public — except when it comes to mass shootings and consumer access to weapons of war.
But as a political matter, Burchett inadvertently did the political world a favor by pulling back the curtain on an important part of GOP politics. In general, in the aftermath of a slaughter, Republicans fall into two broad groups: Members of the first contingent want to give the appearance of seriousness, so they peddle all kinds of foolish proposals so they can at least claim to be approaching the issue in a constructive way. Their solutions tend to be absurd — Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s preoccupation with doors comes to mind — but they see political value in maintaining a pretense.
Members of the second GOP faction simply don’t care. They see no need to maintain a pretense. They don’t bother with insincere faux solutions. Their complete indifference leads them to simply shrug their shoulders, confident in the knowledge that their constituents will likely just re-elect them anyway.
These Republicans tend not to be too brazen in public about their apathy, which made Burchett’s comments refreshing in a profoundly depressing way. His indifference was unapologetic. He wasn’t the slightest bit embarrassed about being an elected policymaker who has no interest in making policies about the nation’s #1 killer of children.
As part of the same Q&A with reporters, the GOP congressman was also asked what he believes should be done to keep kids safe from school shootings. Burchett responded that his family homeschools.
“Some people don’t have that option,” he added, after literally shrugging his shoulders.