It's Time to Be Honest About the Partisan Nature of Gun CultureRoundup
tags: Republican Party, Second Amendment, guns, mass shootings, violence, LGBTQ history, National Rifle Association
Heather Cox Richardson teaches nineteenth-century American history at Boston College. Her early work focused on the transformation of political ideology from the Civil War to the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt. It examined issues of race, economics, westward expansion, and the construction of the concept of an American middle class. Her history of the Republican Party, To Make Men Free (2014) examines the fundamental tensions in American politics from the time of the Northwest Ordinance to the present.
Today, survivors of the mass shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colorado, testified before the House Oversight and Reform Committee. Club Q is an LGBTQ club in the city of about 500,000 people. The shooter opened fire there on the night of November 19-20, during a dance party. He used an AR-15 style rifle, murdering five people and wounding 19 more. Six others were hurt in the chaos.
Pointing to Republican anti-LGBTQ rhetoric that calls LGBTQ individuals “groomers” and abusers,” survivors of the mass shooting said that Republican rhetoric was “the direct cause” of the massacre. Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) drew a wider lens: “The attack on Club Q and the LGBTQI community is not an isolated incident, but part of a broader trend of violence and intimidation across our country.”
James Comer (R-KY), who will likely chair the committee in the upcoming Republican-controlled House, disagreed. Blaming Democratic policies that he claims are soft on crime, he said that “Republicans condemn violence in all forms,” and that the survivors have his “thoughts and prayers.”
But Comer’s insistence that Republicans do not celebrate guns is not entirely honest. Just last year, four days after a mass shooting at a school in Oxford, Michigan that killed four students and wounded seven other people, Comer’s colleague Thomas Massie (R-KY) posted on Twitter a Christmas photo of him, his wife, and five children holding assault weapons in front of a Christmas tree. The caption read: “Merry Christmas! ps. Santa, please bring ammo.” Representative Lauren Boebert (R-CO) immediately posted her own family photo with her four sons all posing with firearms.
In 2020, according to the New York Times Editorial Board, “Republican politicians ran more than 100 ads featuring guns and more than a dozen that featured semiautomatic military-style rifles.”
Democrats do not do this. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) shot a hole in a climate bill in 2010 but, according to the New York Times Editorial Board, that was the last time a Democrat used a gun in an ad.
The national free-for-all in which we have 120 guns for every 100 people—the next closest country is Yemen, with about 52 per one hundred people—is deeply tied to the political ideology of today’s Republican Party. It comes from the rise of Movement Conservatism under Ronald Reagan.