The deadly mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, transfixed the nation this week. Even in a country that has become inured to this kind of violence, the horrifying details stood out. The gunman who was able to easily buy an AR-15 just after he turned 18, stockpiled 1,657 rounds of ammunition, and then targeted a grade school. The anguished parents who needed to submit to DNA tests so that their children could be identified. And the botched response, where law enforcement stood idly by while children, trapped in their own classroom with a killer, made desperate 911 calls for help with their dead teacher’s phone.
None of these grotesqueries penetrated the first day of the NRA’s annual convention on Friday in Houston, even as one speaker after another denounced the rampage. Instead, a handful of prominent Republicans, speaking to a crowd of ardent gun-rights supporters, slapped together remixes of the same tune they or many of their predecessors played after Parkland, after Sandy Hook, or even after Columbine.
This time, the overarching argument was that gun-control measures are ineffective. After all, laws cannot stop Evil. Texas governor Greg Abbott noted in a prerecorded video message: “There are thousands of laws on the books across the country that limit the owning or using of firearms, laws that have not stopped madmen from carrying out evil acts on innocent people in peaceful communities.” He added, “In Uvalde, the gunman committed a felony under Texas law before he even pulled the trigger. It’s a felony to possess a firearm on school premises, but that did not stop him, and what he did on campus is capital murder.” Instead, he reasoned, these policies were what’s dangerous.
Senator Ted Cruz, conjuring the image of a single mother on a subway train who would be left defenseless without a firearm, said gun-control regulations were about liberal elites trying to take control. He described them as a cabal of “the most powerful politicians and their allies in the media, the leaders of the largest corporations, and the most famous celebrities, and those who amplify and echo them” who sought political advantage from disarming Americans while living behind their “great bulwarks of security.”
The dark plans of liberal elites were made even more explicit by other speakers, who saw new gun regulations as a Trojan Horse for authoritarianism. South Dakota governor Kristi Noem warned that “the enemies of the Second Amendment are schooled in the ways of Marx and Lenin” and somehow intimated that the worst excesses of the French Revolution were the result of the lack of an analogue to the Second Amendment in the Declaration of the Rights of Man. North Carolina lieutenant governor Mark Robinson went even further. He declared “we will not allow you to strip us of our rights, to bring us to our knees. We know what your machinations are, we’ve seen this movie before in a place called Russia, in a place called Germany.”
Other old familiar lines on the right like the “only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with gun” ran somewhat hollow in light of the police inaction in Uvalde on Tuesday, but they were repeated anyway. Speakers did acknowledged the tragedy, however. Former president Donald Trump read the name of each person murdered on Tuesday, and a recording of a single chiming church bell was played after every name.
There was also an emphasis on taking unspecified steps to help people with mental-health issues, and to build stronger families, and, of course, a reference to violent video games. One particularly strong emphasis was on increasing school security. In his keynote address, Trump argued that schools should “have a single point of entry with strong fencing and metal detectors … with police or armed resources on duty at all times.” This echoed much of the rhetoric on the right in recent days that pointed to schools having too many points of entry as a key weakness and the need to create only a single point of ingress.
Trump added some topical notes too, grousing that “if we have $40 billion to send to Ukraine, we should be able to do whatever it takes to keep our children safe at home.” And he struck familiar tones on violent crime, railed yet again against the riots and disturbances during the summer of 2020, and teased the possibility of deploying federal troops into American cities if he was elected to the White House again in 2024 in order to “crack down on violent crime like never before.”
“The existence of evil in our world is not a reason to disarm law-abiding citizens, the existence of evil is one of the very best reasons to arm law-abiding citizens,” Trump also said. The United States long ago reached a point where the same notes are sounded in the aftermath of every big mass shooting. The last place that tune would change is an NRA convention, where the cause of gun violence is always something other than guns, and the solution to gun violence is always more guns.
More on the Texas school shooting
- Dianne Feinstein, the Institutionalist
- Uvalde Schools Just Suspended All Their Cowardly Cops
- New Timeline Shows Uvalde Police Could Have Stopped Massacre in Minutes