In a ritualistic act or the purest self loathing, I track the news closely. I've done so for nearly twenty years. I doom scroll and click and read and doom scroll and click and read – over and over again until I become one with my despair.
In the Age of the Online Broken Brain, maybe you can relate.
But not even I can keep track of mass shootings in the US of late. I log on every morning to find there were two or three mass shootings the day before – horrific acts that hardly made national headlines before they don't meet the Dozens of Kids Slaughtered level of revulsion. I find myself thinking, ah, that's good, only two people were killed and a few injured in this latest shooting. Probably that doesn't make me a monster. It makes me numb.
There have been 233 mass shootings in the US this year, as of this writing (this will certainly change by the time you read this). We've had 20 mass shootings since a gunman in Uvalde, Texas last week used his Second Amendment rights to take out 19 school kids and two adults. There have been a dozen mass murders in America since January 1. Not a single week has passed in 2022 without at least four mass shootings in the Shining City On The Hill. The city is a little less shiny today with all that blood splatter.
There will be no legislative action on reining in so-called gun rights, a euphemism for allowing anyone and everyone to purchase military-grade weapons whose only purpose is to destroy human bodies. Democrats will do their song and dance in Congress and propose "common sense" gun legislation that has no chance of becoming law (and wouldn't unless Democrats held 65 to 70 Senate seats, a literal impossibility). Joe Biden will continue making speeches asking hey, who's in charge around here! For the love of Christ, they should do something about all this legalized murder!
We know how this goes. A guy buys an assault rifle, children are dragged out of a school in pieces, Democrats get mad and pretend the legislative process can work (it can't), then Republicans reject all of it in the name of liberty and go about collecting checks from their masters at the gun manufacturers and the NRA.
The song is playing again. The politicians are dancing. And we watch, eyes glazed over, drained of hope, full of anger and sadness and anxiety. So it goes.
Yet You Can't Stop All Murders. Curious!
My favorite argument against even the most toothless gun regulations goes something like this: Your policies won't stop every single gun-related killing for the rest of the time so it's not worth pursuing.
This is a tried-and-true Republican rebuttal of gun control advocates who suggest Americans should be 21 years old before they purchase their first weapon or war, or maybe wife beaters and child abusers shouldn't be allowed to buy killing machines at Walmart. These are the most modest forms of gun control and they are rejected out of hand by every single congressional Republican. They dig deep into their never-ending well of bad faith and say there's no point in passing piecemeal legislation because that won't end the scourge of gun violence in America. Republicans throw up their hands and said, oh well, I guess there's nothing any of us can do since there is no panacea for rampant mass murders in our great land. Nevertheless!
I nearly drove off the road the other day while listening to one of those terrible, hackneyed debates between a Republican operative and a Democratic operative on NPR (operative being a fancy word for "hack"). They went back and forth on guns and the Democratic dude got upset and the Republican woman urged calm. At the end of the exchange the Republican lady dismissed any and all efforts to address gun violence because, she said, these measures would not eradicate gun violence. It's the sort of bad faith you can taste in the back of your mouth if you try hard enough.
The bad faith on guns hardly stops there. If only.
There are the classic pro-murder, bad-faith arguments that are dusted off after particularly deadly mass shootings: We need to give guns to the good guys; mental illness, blah blah blah; video games, beep boop beep; knives and cars kill people too, blurgh blurgh blurgh; black folks shoot each other in Chicago – things of that nature.
Now we have a Republican member of Congress pushing back against calls to ban assault weapons by claiming he uses said assault weapons to shoot the shit out of animals that fuck with his chickens.
“In rural Colorado, an AR-15 is a gun of choice for killing raccoons before they get to our chickens,” Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) said this week during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence. “It is a gun of choice for killing, uh, a fox. It is a gun that you control predators on your ranch, your farm, your property. The idea that somehow we are going to deny access — I think there are 20 million AR-15s in circulation in this country — it makes absolutely no sense.”
You can't take muh machine guns, Ken Buck cries. I need my machine guns to blow the fuck out of critters in my backyard. Those raccoons can't be killed by a shotgun or some other widely available and lethal weapon. Raccoons are fucking terminators sent from the future to kill my chickens. Destroying them requires massive artillery, Ken Buck says. I need to see their bodies explode; my chickens deserve to live in peace. If that means some kids get slaughtered in their classrooms every once in a while, so be it.
Which brings me to a potentially effective bad faith argument the left can use against the right's gun worshippers.
Call Them What They Are
Stop referring to the Republican Party as the Republican Party. Call them the Child Murder Caucus.
Yes, this is a bad-faith approach to the issue. Many Republican lawmakers are probably horrified by school shooting and other Second Amendment mass murders. But they do nothing to stop these acts. It's worse, in fact: They actively block any effort to stop people – children included – from being mowed down by assault weapons. So call them what they are: Enablers of child murder.
In my fevered bad-faith imagination, Democrats on the House floor would not refer to an opposing party member as "my Republican colleague from Colorado" but as "my Child Murder Caucus colleague from Colorado." In interviews, gun control advocates would flippantly say stuff like "of course the Child Murder caucus is never going to support a ban on assault weapons so we must find another way."
Senate Democrats should refer to Mitch McConnell – whose hands are dripping with the blood of children – as "the leader of the Child Murder Caucus." Online ads begging folks to contribute to gun control groups or political organizations that will push for reform should ask people to help them defeat Congress's Child Murder Caucus. "Defeat the Child Killers this November!"
If this sounds similar to Republicans dubbing abortion rights-supporting Democrats as "baby killers," that's because it is. Slandering Democrats as baby killers has been an effective strategy in radicalizing a Republican base that wasn't always foaming at the mouth about imprisoning (and killing) abortion providers and prosecuting women who have miscarriages. If Americans are going to break through Republicans' intransigent opposition to all forms of gun regulation, regular folks are going to have to be radicalized. We're emotional creatures whose lizard brains can be easily manipulated, and only one of our two political parties takes this approach. Democrats must stop treating voters like rational, intelligent beings.
The American left is bad at deploying bad faith. It doesn't come naturally because the left – part of it, anyway – still hopes against hope that good-faith politics can win the day (it can't), that going high when they go low will pay off (it won't), that the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice (it doesn't).
Regular, somewhat well-adjusted Americans who don't poison their brains every day with constant doom scrolling are going to need to be worked up into a frenzy if Congress (or the president, even if Biden acts like the presidency is a ceremonial role) is going to act on gun violence. You're going to have to make normies insane with rage if the political pressure is ever going to be sufficient in the gun violence discourse. Your political opponents must be made into unconscionable monsters before things get done. Thankfully in the gun debate, you don't have to try very hard to accomplish just that.
And maybe it would all be for naught. Laws making killing machines slightly less accessible would be subject to the child murder advocates sitting on the Supreme Court, who are determined to keep us chained to the corpses of the nation's founders. And on it goes.
Follow Denny Carter at @CDCarter13 on Twitter for maximum alienation.