Photo by Jay Rembert on Unsplash

The Annoying Repetition Of Mass Shootings And The Politicians’ Responses

Phil Garber
8 min readNov 28, 2022

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Mass shootings are like Groundhog Day, they keep happening, the blood keeps flowing and nothing changes.
It’s as predictable as the sunrise. Politicians express outrage, do their patented hand wringing, and offer hollow condolences to the victims. In a short time, the same, tired, old arguments resume from the Republicans about Second Amendment rights while Fox News blames the violence on soft on crime, Democratic policies.
In a truly twisted response, as predictable as a Mets swoon, the primarily Republican gun lovers say the answer to mass bloodbaths is to give people more guns. They will not or cannot see the connections between their anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and the Nov. 19 shootings at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs where five were killed and 15 injured.
Meanwhile those with a functioning head on their shoulders point to the need to continue seeking ways to stem the number of guns in America by taking such radical measures as banning assault rifles, extending red flag laws, increasing background checks, providing more money for mental health services, just as a start. Perhaps a big part of the problem is not insufficient gun laws but the lack of enforcement of existing laws. Sen. Chris Murphy, D- Conn., said in an interview that 60 percent of counties in the U.S. “are refusing to implement the nation’s gun laws, we’ve got to do something about that.”
And when the smoke of the shooting clears, the sweet smell of the gunpowder dissipates and the reporters retreat to the next story, the general public returns to whatever they believe are their normal lives, more annoyed than anything about the inconvenience of having to interrupt their lives and read about yet another mass shootings. The nightmare will never end for the small number of Americans whose lives have been destroyed at the barrel of a semi-automatic assault rifle and the families whose worlds have been torn apart. But the majority of Americans, who have never been anywhere near a mass shooting, simply, don’t care.
Beware of false parallels that blame both political parties. This has never been an argument over the best ways to reduce the number of violent incidents involving guns. It has always been about politics, a problem that has long been exacerbated by Republican politicians who fan the flames and fawn over their gun-toting, NRA-loving constituents.
A study by the American Journal of Public Health reported in November that twice the number of Americans were carrying handguns daily in 2019 compared to 2015. The study found that around 6,000 gun owners carried handguns every day in 2019, up from 3,000 in 2015.
The absurdity knows no levels as more and more states allow their residents to openly carry guns and rifles, without permits and without training or background checks. Open carrying without a permit is legal in 38 states and more states are considering similar legislation.
A N.Y. Times story reported that more than half of all armed protests occurred in 10 states with expansive open-carry laws, including Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Washington. Michigan, Oregon and Texas allowed armed protesters to gather outside capitol buildings ahead of President Biden’s inauguration, and in Michigan, militia members carrying assault rifles were permitted inside the capitol during protests against COVID-19 lockdowns.
These 21st century imitators of a gun toting, marshal out of Dodge City, say that law abiding people need guns for self-defense, particularly when they attend civil protests, like one last year in Wisconsin in the aftermath of the May 25, 2020, killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. They’ll point to Kyle Rittenhouse, who became a cause celebre among Republicans after the 17-year-old right wing activist shot and killed two protesters at the rally in Kenosha, Wis., in August 2020. Rittenhouse was acquitted of murder charges after he claimed he had acted in self-defense.
“At a time when protests often devolve into riots, honest people need a means to protect themselves,” said Jordan Stein, a spokesman for Gun Owners of America.
And some of the people who wear sidearms in belief that it will increase their sexuality, will attend political rallies intent on intimidating the other side, whether it is at voting stations, pro-choice or LGBTQ rallies.
The overweight, under-educated armchair soldiers, who never saw enemy fire, come with their 9 mm Glocks on their side and their AR-15s strapped menacingly on their shoulders. They claim they are just exercising their God-given, constitutional rights but make no mistake, their appearance is to frighten and it is not merely acting out their rights.
A recent New York Times analysis of more than 700 armed demonstrations “found that, at about 77 percent of them, people openly carrying guns represented right-wing views, such as opposition to L.G.B.T.Q. rights and abortion access, hostility to racial justice rallies and support for former President Donald J. Trump’s lie of winning the 2020 election.”
For example, in July men wearing sidearms confronted Beto O’Rourke, then the Democratic candidate for Texas governor, at a campaign stop and warned that he was “not welcome in this town.”
The Times reported that Republican officials or candidates appeared at 32 protests where they were on the same side as those with guns. A membership list for the right wing Oath Keepers, made public last year, showed that its members and supporters included 81 elected officials or candidates, according to a report by the Anti-Defamation League.
More than 25 members of the Oath Keepers, the Proud Boys and another right wing group, the Three Percenters, have been charged in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Some Republican officials, like 64-year-old Robert Sutherland, a member of the Washington state House of Representatives, wore a sidearm while campaigning against COVID-19 restrictions in 2020.
Sutherland directed his inflammatory comments to then-Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, saying, “Governor, you send men with guns after us for going fishing. We’ll see what a revolution looks like.”
Sutherland was a strong trump supporter who promoted trump’s lie that the former president lost the 2020 election because of voter fraud. After the election, Sutherland posted on Facebook that his constituents should “Prepare for war” after proclaiming that “Joe Biden is not now, nor will ever be my President.” He also said it would be “righteous” if trump utilized the military to forcefully stay in power.
Some of the crowd carried rifles and wore pistols at a Second Amendment rally in June 2021 outside the statehouse in Harrisburg, Pa. Republican speakers like Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., said the right to be armed was part of the ongoing culture war. Perry repeated a frequent conservative talking point about censorship, saying the First Amendment was “under assault.”
“And you know very well what protects the First,” Perry said. “Which is what we’re doing here today.”
Stephanie Borowicz, a Pennsylvania state legislator, told the crowd that “tyrannical governors” had been forced to ease coronavirus restrictions because “as long as we’re an armed population, the government fears us.”
Borowicz, 44, whose husband is a pastor, gave an invocation at the start of a state house session in which she invoked Jesus 13 times, praised trump, praised Israel, and said, “at the name of Jesus, every knee will bend.” Not coincidentally, the prayer was given on the same day that Movita Johnson-Harrell was sworn in as the first Muslim woman to serve in the chamber.
In May 2019, Borowicz was in a selfie taken at a pro-gun rally in Harrisburg, Pa., by a man in a shirt with the name and logo of The American Guard, a white supremacist group based in Indiana.
Borowicz also said the coronavirus pandemic was a “punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins.”
In April 2020, Jeff Neff, a Republican candidate for the Pennsylvania state senate, outdoorsman and head coach of a youth football team, posed for a photo at a COVID-19 protest with a dozen militia members, some armed and wearing skull masks and body armor. Neff lost his election bid and later said he did not “condone any threats or action of violence by any person or groups.”
The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, hailed as the first major gun control measure in decades, was signed into law by Biden on June 25. The bill includes extended background checks for gun purchasers under 21, clarification of Federal Firearms License requirements, funding for state red flag laws and other crisis intervention programs, further criminalization of arms trafficking and straw purchases, and partial closure of the boyfriend loophole. The boyfriend loophole refers to a gap in natinal gun laws that bars guns from abusive spouses but allows access to guns by physically abusive ex-boyfriends and stalkers with previous convictions or restraining orders. The bill did not ban assault-style weapons.
Soon after the bill was signed, the House passed a package of proposals, including a safe storage bill and bills to increase i the minimum age to buy semi-automatic rifles to 21, ban large-capacity magazines, and establish universal background checks. The bills were not taken up by the Senate, which is evenly split between the parties.
This week, Biden called for a renewed effort to ban assault rifles. Sen. Chris Murphy, D- Conn., said Senate Democrats don’t have the 60 votes needed to advance an assault weapons ban bill.
The right wing rhetoric over gun control has been predictable. In May, Fox commentator Sean Hannity said that “Democrats can’t blame Republicans. They can’t blame conservatives. And they’d have to look at their policies of, let’s see, lax on crime. Defund, dismantle and no bail laws.”
And in the immediate aftermath of the Arizona shooting, the responses from on high were frighteningly similar to comments over prior mass murders.
“Gun violence continues to have a devastating and particular impact on LGBTQI+ communities across our nation and threats of violence are increasing. We saw it six years ago in Orlando, when our nation suffered the deadliest attack affecting the LGBTQI+ community in American history,” said President Joe Biden in the aftermath of the latest mass killings in Arizona and Virginia. “We must address the public health epidemic of gun violence in all of its forms. Earlier this year, I signed the most significant gun safety law in nearly three decades, in addition to taking other historic actions. But we must do more. We need to enact an assault weapons ban to get weapons of war off America’s streets,” he added.
“Enough is enough. Gun violence in this country is an epidemic that will not end with thoughts and prayers alone. President Biden will continue to do everything in his power to reduce gun violence, including by calling on Congress to increase community violence intervention funding, ensure universal background checks, and send legislation to his desk banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. It’s past time we turn our pain into purpose.” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, Nov. 2,2022.

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Phil Garber

Journalist for 40 years and now a creative writer