March 28, 2023 | Reading Time: 3 minutes
For the House Republicans, mass death is a means to an end
Government isn't for helping people. It's for controlling people.
Expect the Republicans to remain silent in the immediate aftermath of the massacre Monday, in Nashville, that left three adults and three 9-year-old kids literally shot to pieces. The shooter is also dead.
This is a familiar pattern. While the Democrats, this time led by Joe Biden, demand that Congress renew the ban on semiautomatic rifles (“assault weapons”), the Republicans will offer no more than prayers for families of the victims, and gratitude for police and first responders.
At some point, however, maybe a week, the Republicans will break their silence. They will re-dedicate themselves to preserving the Second Amendment and the right to self-defense. They will accuse the Democrats of “politicizing a tragedy.” They will also fake being outraged by the possible risk of “infringing the rights of law abiding citizens.”
We know this pattern of behavior will recur, because we’ve seen it so many times over the last 20 years, the period after the Congress allowed the old ban on the sale of semiautomatic weapons to expire. We also know, on account of this past behavior, that the Republicans, who control the House, won’t do a damn thing to stop mass death.
That’s the end of one story, but it should be the beginning of another, a story waiting to be told by liberals in a context of democratic politics about what the Republicans really care about and what they really want. They don’t want to solve problems. They don’t want to help people. They want to control people, especially outpeople who use democratic politics to undermine “the natural order of things.”
That they want to control people, especially outpeople, was evident Monday in rightwing chatter about the shooter, Audrey Hale. The Nashville police chief said she was transgender. Whether that’s true remains to be seen. But for rightwingers, that was enough to call for a crackdown. Guns didn’t shoot six people to pieces. “Wokeness” did.
From this, you can see the punitive desire behind rightwing politics. On the one hand, the government can’t do anything to stop mass death because stopping it might “infringe the rights of law abiding citizens.” On the other hand, the government must do something about “wokeness,” because failing to act will lead only to mass death!
How do the Second Amendment rights of trans people figure into this thinking? They don’t, because outpeople don’t deserve them.
They are not “law-abiding citizens.”
If trans people are not included among “law-abiding citizens,” that means that “the law” isn’t the law, but “God’s law,” which, from the rightwing viewpoint, puts white Christian men on top of society. That’s “the natural order of things.” There are males and there are females. Being trans breaks God’s law. Lawbreakers deserve punishment.
That we talk about trans issues is an outcome of democratic politics, of outpeople raising hell until a majority starts listening and is persuaded to the reality of trans people. So rightwing politics not only seeks to punish trans people. It seeks to punish democratic politics.
This is why I have argued that shooting massacres are, one way or another, an outcome of democratic politics running up against God’s law. To adherents, the law is a gun. A gun is the law. If God’s people fail democratically – if they fail to gain control of the government in order to enact laws that will punish outpeople – they are free to take “the law” into their own hands. If mass death is a consequence, so be it.
In other words, mass death, or the threat of mass death, is another way in rightwing politics to control people, especially outpeople, who don’t buy guns typically the way God’s people do. The people with the most guns are the people most in control. The right to bear arms is the right of God’s people to force outpeople to stay where they belong.
When the House Republicans finally break their silence, maybe in a week, to say that they can’t and won’t use the government to solve the problem of mass death, that’s because, to them, mass death isn’t a problem. Mass death is a means to an end, which is social control.
To be sure, Audrey Hale does not fit the profile. Whether she’s transgender or not, it’s rare for shooters not to be white men. It happens, but these are not exceptions to the rule. They prove it. After all, if you’re a target of punishment, for breaking God’s law, for being who you are, you might think that if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.