Ever since the massacre of 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, two weeks ago, the GOP has been hard at work identifying the causes of mass school shootings, an affliction unique to the United States.
But rather than addressing the common factor in each of these tragedies–readily available firearms—they’ve been trying to outdo each other with increasingly extreme and absurd explanations for why school shootings take place with such horrifying regularity.
VICE News has compiled a list of everything GOP lawmakers and right-wing talking heads have come up with to deflect attention from the real problem (again, it’s guns) since the Uvalde shooting.
Fox News host Laura Ingraham is adamant that the problem is weed, and she wants to know why more people aren’t talking about this. Citing unsubstantiated news reports claiming the Uvalde shooter used cannabis, Ingraham suggested the link between weed and mass shootings is being covered up as part of a “pro-marijuana” conspiracy.
“The American people are hearing a lot about AR-15s and background checks, but they also deserve to hear about this,” she said.
Her Fox News colleague Tucker Carlson also focused on the use of drugs as the main contributor to gun deaths. He criticized Canada’s decision to tighten already strict laws on purchasing handguns while simultaneously decriminalizing small amounts of fentanyl.
“Why, if you were concerned about public health, would you ban firearms but legalize fentanyl? Fentanyl is what people are dying from, not guns. How does that make sense? It only makes sense if your goal is to keep the population weak and vulnerable, even if it kills them.”
It should be pointed out that pharmaceutical fentanyl, which is used in hospitals every day, is already legal in Canada—and the U.S.—and the Canadian government’s move does not legalize anything; it decriminalizes amounts under 2.5 grams.
Speaking on an episode of his own podcast, entitled “Nature of Evil,” Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz recounted his speech to the National Rifle Association the previous weekend, and claimed numerous mass murderers are “raised with absent fathers.”
“It was interesting seeing some of the reactions of the left, because it’s almost pathological where they come back and attack me and said, ‘Well, Cruz is attacking single moms.’ No, I’m not. I’m saying that kids do better with dads,” Cruz said, adding that he has single-parent homes in his family and that single mothers are “heroic and extraordinary people.”
The Uvalde shooter had been living with his grandparents after he had a falling-out with his mother.
But absent fathers weren’t the only factor, Cruz said. He pointed to “broken families, declining church attendance, and social media bullying,” saying they’re altering the “psyche of young Americans.”
While Cruz may have claimed he wasn’t blaming single moms, Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks seems to have had no such reservations.
“Those single-parent households end up resulting in children who are more likely to be on welfare, who are less likely to get the kind of grades you expect to get in school, who are more likely to be involved in drugs, and who are, unfortunately, more likely to be involved in criminal conduct,” Brooks told Fox News last weekend.
This comment wasn’t an outlier. Last month, Brooks said the Texas massacre “reflects poorly on liberal policies that encourage out-of-wedlock childbirth, divorce, single-parent households, and amoral values that undermine respect for life.”
Cruz clearly has a lot of time to think about what was to blame for the Uvalde shooting, because he also came up with another not-guns place to lay the blame.
“Have one door into and out of the school and have that one door, armed police officers at that door,” Cruz said on May 25 in an interview with Fox News’ Jesse Watters. “If that had happened… when that psychopath arrived, the armed police officers could have taken him out and we would have 19 children and two teachers still alive.”
Cruz went further, saying schools should be effectively militarized, by making doors and windows bulletproof. Other Republicans joined Cruz in blaming doors for the massacre, including Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and former President Donald Trump, who said in his speech at the NRA convention days after the attack that “schools should be the single hardest target in our country.”
Loss of faith
For many on the right, the declining numbers of people attending church and a broader “loss of faith” is to blame for school shootings.
Among those espousing this theory was Cruz (yes, him again) and his Republican colleague Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson. Speaking on a right-wing radio show called the Conservative Circus, Johnson blamed the “secularization of society” and “loss of faith” for the shooting.
“I think the solution is renewed faith,” Johnson added.
CRT and “wokeness”
Like Cruz, Sen. Johnson found multiple causes for the epidemic of school shootings, none of which was “guns.”
Speaking on Fox News a few days later, Johnson said he believed that there was a “sickness” in American society and that the root causes of this were the twin boogeymen of critical race theory and “wokeness.”
“We stopped teaching values in so many of our schools. Now we’re teaching wokeness,” the senator told Fox News. “We’re indoctrinating our children with things like CRT, telling, you know, some children they’re not equal to others and they’re the cause of other people’s problems.”
When the Fox News host pointed out that school shootings have been happening since long before CRT became an issue, Johnson was undeterred.
“CRT’s been going on under the radar for quite some time as well,” he said, declaring that “wokeness” and “liberal indoctrination” have also been happening for a long time. “This is a much larger issue than what a simple new gun law’s going to—it’s not going to solve it, it’s not going to solve it,” he said.
A week after the shooting, Rep. Billy Long of Missouri reminisced about growing up at a time when there were very few shootings, and pinpointed what has changed since his childhood.
“When I was growing up in Springfield, you had one or two murders a year,” Long told local radio station 93.9 The Eagle. “Now, we have two, three, four a week. So, something has happened to our society. I go back to abortion–when we decided it was OK to murder kids in their mothers’ wombs. Life has no value to a lot of these folks.”
In the immediate aftermath of the Uvalde shooting, the right fell back on the catchall cause it typically rolls out after a mass shooting: mental illness.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said “we need to do a better job with mental health… Anybody who shoots somebody else has a mental health challenge, period.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell echoed these views: “It seems to me there are two broad categories that underscore the problem, mental illness and school safety.”
Of course what Abbott didn’t mention during those remarks was that just a month before the Uvalde shooting, his government diverted $211 million from the department that oversees mental health services in Texas and allocated it to border security.
It’s now almost inevitable that after every mass shooting, someone will blame video games. This time it was Cruz–who blamed “desensitizing the act of murder in video games”–and the director of the Texas Department of Public Security Steven McGraw, who when asked about a motive for the shooting, said, “We know the individual was also into cyber gaming in that regard and group gaming.”
This demonization of video games in the wake of mass shootings dates back to the 1999 Columbine shooting, when then-Sen. Jeff Sessions described how the shooters were “able to hook into the internet and play video games that are extraordinarily violent, cause the blood pressure to rise, and the adrenaline level to go up. Games that cause people to be killed and the players to die themselves.”
But several decades of research into video games and violent behavior has found no concrete causal link between the two.
Texas Congressman Ronny Jackson also jumped on the video game theory, but he also pulled out another old trope to blame for violent behavior in America: rap music.
“I just think that kids are exposed to all kinds of horrible stuff nowadays, too,” he told Fox News. “I look back and I think about the horrible stuff that they hear when they listen to rap music, the video games that they watch from a really early age with all of this horrible violence and stuff, and I just think that...they have this access to the internet on a regular basis, which is just not good for kids, I don’t think.”
“Let’s stop all the porn that our kids are absorbing every day,” West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice concluded in the aftermath of the Uvalde shooting, before dismissing a call to ban assault rifles.
This argument has gained popularity among right-wing figures in recent years, like JD Vance. “I think the combination of porn, abortion, have basically created a really lonely, isolated generation that isn’t getting married, they’re not having families, and they’re actually not even totally sure how to interact with each other,” Hillbilly Elegy author and Trump-backed candidate for Ohio Senate, said last year.
Social media, or something?
When CNN’s Manu Raju approached Georgia GOP Senate candidate Herschel Walker at an event in Atlanta, he asked Walker if there should be new gun laws in the wake of the Uvalde shooting. “What I like to do is see it, and everything and stuff,” Walker said. When asked what he meant, Walker didn’t respond.
A few days later, Walker got the chance to clear things up when he appeared on Fox & Friends to talk about the shooting and what could be done to solve the epidemic of gun violence in the United States.
“You know they talked about doing a disinformation, what about getting a department that can look at young men, that’s looking at women, that’s looking at social media. What about doing that, looking into things like that, we can stop that that way,” Walker said.
No, we don’t know what that means either.
The public school system
For Fox News hosts, it can be difficult to stand out from the crowd after a mass shooting,
With Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham already blaming drugs and Canadians, host Jesse Watters was forced to go even further to find a cause for the gun violence epidemic that wasn’t guns.
So, last week he told his viewers that, in addition to blaming mental illness, drugs, and “fatherlessness,” their anger should be directed at the schools themselves.
“We saw it with Uvalde, Parkland, Sandy Hook, all these cases where the public school system, the government failed,” Watters said. “They missed major red flags. They ignored all the signs of kids who were threats and were mentally ill and their fatherless lives, drugs in the homes, all alone. Other times the police chief failed, like in Uvalde. Other times the FBI failed, like in Parkland. And what was the left’s reaction every damn time? Blame law-abiding gun owners.”
In an article in the right-wing Federalist magazine, Tristan Justice argues that the blame for the mass shootings was not the easy availability of assault rifles to someone who had just turned 18. No, the blame was on the Biden administration for its decision to send weapons to Ukraine.
Justice’s argument is that after the Sandy Hook shooting, successive governments have failed to “protect” American schools and have been more focused on sending humanitarian aid and military assistance to Ukraine.
Of course, Justice doesn’t address the fact that former President Donald Trump was in power for four of the years he references, but such details are simply an inconvenience when you’re trying to use a school massacre to make a point about foreign aid policy.
Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert does not like when people curse, and believes that could be one of the reasons for the mass shooting epidemic sweeping the U.S. right now.
“Look, maybe if we heard more prayers from leaders of this country instead of taking God’s name in vain, we wouldn’t have the mass killings like we didn’t have before prayer was eliminated from school,” Gohmert said.
Yes, that’s fucking right, Gohmert thinks that less cursing and more praying will stop people from being able to buy high-powered assault rifles the day they turn 18 and use them to massacre children.
Just when you thought the GOP was done coming up with non-gun excuses for mass shootings, Texas Rep. Pat Fallon pulled another one out of his hat.
Speaking during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on Wednesday, Fallon rejected calls for new gun regulations while trying to put his finger on why mass shootings are a “recent phenomenon.”
Along with the usual reasons–the loss of faith and breakdown of the traditional family unit– Fallon found something new to blame:
“There’s been a noticeable breakdown of the family, there’s been an erosion of faith and there’s been a seismic drop in social interaction in large measure due to the overuse of these dang smartphones and the proliferation of social media, which is probably better described as anti-social media.”
But, they also have solutions
But it’s not all about the blame game for the GOP and the conservative media apparatus. They also have solutions… lots of them. Left-wing media monitoring group Media Matters assembled this compilation of 50 solutions to school shootings offered by GOP lawmakers and right-wing commentators who appeared on Fox News shows in the days after the Uvalde shooting.
The list includes: arming teachers, a tripwire that “traps the shooter like a rat,” declaring martial law, a “ring of steel,” and more snitches. It does not, of course, include gun control.
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