GOP’s hypocrisy culminates in gun-control refusal

The never-ending list of mass shooting victims highlights the necessity for gun control in America


Gun aficionados observe parts of AR-15 semi-automatic rifles at a marketplace in California. The AR-15 has been at the center of the gun-control debate because this weapon has been used to commit atrocities.

Maryam Khanum, Contributing Columnist


At the end of 2020, the media was abuzz reporting one of the most significant silver linings of the coronavirus pandemic — mass killings resulting from gun violence had severely decreased over the course of the year. As a result of the lack of gatherings in public settings, scenarios which are most often targets for indiscriminate shooters. The prevalence of such tragic occurrences trended downwards. However, the definition discrepancy between the terms “mass killing” and “mass shooting” caused widespread misconceptions regarding the prominence of gun violence in 2020. In reality, the problem still looms large.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation defines a mass killing as a single incident in which four or more people are killed, typically in the same location. By this definition, 2020 definitely saw improvement. Mass killings over the course of the year were almost halved in comparison to the preceding year, an achievement which many used as evidence that America’s problem with gun violence was receding. Former President Barack Obama also commented on these findings in a statement released on March 23, 2021. “A once-in-a-century pandemic cannot be the only thing that slows mass shootings in this country,” he said.

However, an error he made in his statement, (and the same error we can observe many Americans making in discussions regarding gun violence) was his conclusion that a once-in-a-century pandemic was responsible for decreasing the prevalence of mass shootings in America. It wasn’t.

Mass shootings are events in which four or more people are shot and injured or killed in a single incident, typically in a single location (as defined by the Gun Violence Archive). They reached a record high in 2020 with over 600 being recorded throughout the course of the year. They may have been less deadly, but they were much more frequent. Gun violence claimed about 4,000 more lives in total in 2020 than it had in 2019.

As of April 5, the United States has seen 125 mass shootings, 9 mass murders and about 11,000 lives claimed by gun violence in 2021. Yet, these numbers are still not enough to convince senior members of the Republican Party that America is in need of gun control. In fact, these legislators seem to be heading in the opposite direction.

Just this year, the NRA assisted in passing a bill into the state legislature that allows Tennessee residents to carry handguns without permits. This effort earned them a statement of gratitude and appreciation from Tennessee Governor Bill Lee. Moreover, the recent Senate hearings regarding mass shootings — following two gun violence-related mass killings over the course of just a week — saw GOP senators attempt to frame gun control as racist, stating that limiting gun ownership infringed upon the rights of minorities. This rhetoric is difficult to take seriously when accounting for the fact that 80% of African Americans and more than half of Hispanic people believe gun violence is an extremely serious problem (Benenson Strategy Group).

Furthermore, the sudden interest in protecting minority rights displayed by the Republican Party is deeply ironic. Following the 2020 general election, Republican lawmakers proposed a series of bills in 2021 legislative sessions aimed at complicating the voting process and barring certain groups of people from voting altogether. A notable consequence of these bills is how much they disproportionately affected minorities, specifically African Americans. 25 of these proposed bills aimed to restrict early voting, the method the majority of African Americans use to vote. For instance, 60% of African American voters in North Carolina voted early. Moreover, the prohibition of mobile voting in Georgia carries overtly racist implications considering the fact that the only county which has ever implemented mobile voting, Fulton County, has the largest African American population in the state.

This suppression, combined with the continued disregard for America’s need for gun control, is indicative of the GOP’s willingness to pick and choose which constitutional amendments to validate, and which to overlook. The evident insinuation of the high regard in which the GOP holds the Second Amendment — and the disregard with which they view the Fifteenth — is hypocritical to say the least. It is disconcerting that Republicans are attempting to alter legislature on the basis of completely unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud, yet remain silent in the face of violence and attribute the deaths of thousands of Americans to “unavoidable, collateral damage.” Is the sanctity with which the GOP holds the Second Amendment really constitutional at all?

In 1919, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes provided the well-known constitutional analogy of yelling fire in a crowded theater. He argued, “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.” Despite the fact that the First Amendment protects all forms of expression, Justice Holmes was celebrated because he understood that even the most rudimentary amendment of the constitution should not be weaponized against the people if doing so would create unnecessary chaos.

The same argument must apply to the Second Amendment. America may now be making headway in combatting the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but it’s time the Republican Party acknowledged and began working towards halting the epidemic of gun violence that has long plagued our country.