The mass shooting at Covenant School in Nashville, Tenn., on Monday, which left six people dead, including three 9-year-olds, was the 13th school shooting this year that led to injury or death. Education Week, which has been tracking these massacres since 2018, reports that there were 51 such shootings last year and 157 since they began tabulating the body counts.
Guns are now the leading cause of death for children in the United States. Over 6,000 American children were either killed or injured by guns in 2022. One 2022 study examined the data for youth mortality in 12 rich countries, including the United States. American children accounted for 97 percent of the total gun deaths from all 12 countries.
In a normal country, stopping this would be all we talked about. Elections to every major local, state, and federal office would turn on the single issue of which candidates have the best plan to prevent our children from being murdered. Parents of school-age children would band together in broad, multiethnic, cross-class coalitions demanding action and results. A normal country would not suffer 13 school shootings per quarter without massive social and political upheaval.
But we don’t live in a normal country. We live in a blood-soaked murder factory. We live in a country where there are more legal restrictions on where a person can bare their breasts than brandish their guns. We live in a society where people are more interested in banning books than guns. We live with state governments that will force people to give birth against their will, but shrug when actual children are killed at school.
We live like this because of the Republican Party. These school shootings are not tragedies. They are choices made by our government. Every other country on Earth has violent people with a motive to do harm to others. Every other country has people with mental health issues. Every other country has access to media and art that glorifies or trivializes violence. But these school shootings don’t happen in every other country, because every other country doesn’t have easy, nearly unfettered access to weapons of mass murder.
What’s exceptional about America is that we have sacrificed the safety of our children because letting them die helps gun sales. Republicans have reinterpreted our Constitution to make it fit an NRA marketing gimmick from the 1970s. The Republican lust for blood, as expressed through their ahistorical interpretation of the Second Amendment, is why we are here. Restricting gun ownership would save lives; removing gun regulations leads to death. Republicans have chosen the latter. Guns are the Republican Moloch, their god to which they are willing to sacrifice children.
Everyone already knew that the Nashville shooting wouldn’t change this reality. We knew that after the last mass shooting, and the one before that, and all the ones before that one. This time, though, some Republicans appear to feel even less obliged than usual to pretend that they care. In the wake of the shooting, Tennessee Representative Tim Burchett was caught on camera telling the gross truth about himself and his despicable political party.
When asked about the shooting, Burchett said, “We’re not going to fix it.” When asked what Congress could do, he said, “I don’t see any real role that we could do other than mess things up.” (This congressman, by the way, went on Newsmax to fervently defend Tennessee’s ban on drag shows, in case you needed a sense of what he thinks the government should be doing.) Finally, when asked how we are supposed to protect children like his own daughter, Burchett said, “Well, we homeschool her.”
That is the entire Republican Party in a nutshell. They won’t do anything; they will stop other people from doing something, and their grand plan is to protect their own people while leaving the rest of the country to suffer and die.
Of course, the message “we are impotent nihilists who retreat to our gated communities instead of serving the public” is not a politically viable response to mass murder. Enter the white-wing media.
Every mass shooting inspires conservative media to find literally any culprit other than the murder weapons to blame for the murders. We’ve all heard them before: mental health, violent video games, doors. They’re all stupid reasons, but the conservative base does not require good reasons to believe what they believe. But this mass shooting has given the party of literal death a ready-made scapegoat that already fits in with the conservatives’ bigoted priors: The shooter in Nashville appears to have been trans.
The conservative media firestorm has been as predictable as the reality that there will be another mass shooting soon. But if you’re looking for the worst white-wing coverage, the New York Post is always a good place to start. Its front-page headline the day after the shooting read: “TRANSGENDER KILLER TARGETS CHRISTIAN SCHOOL: ‘Manifesto’ leads to 6 dead, including three young kids.”
Everything about that headline, from its implications to its basic grammar, is wrong. For those playing along at home, let’s do a close read.
- A “transgender killer” would be a serial killer who targets trans people. This was a killer who is trans. (The Post also misgendered the shooter, for good measure.)
- It is believed that the suspect was a former student at the school, which would make the still-undetermined motive far different than a school shooter who “targets Christian school[s].” They targeted their school. Dylan Roof, by contrast, targeted a Black church. It would be a different motive if he targeted his church.
- The “manifesto” did not “lead” to six dead people. The two assault rifles and handgun the shooter brought with them led to six dead people. If the shooter had shown up to school armed with a manifesto, everybody would still be alive.
The people writing headlines for the Post are probably evil, but they’re not stupid. They know exactly what they’re doing. The Post knows what Burchett knows: that Republicans are not going to fix it. To deflect from that should-be-unacceptable reality, the Post offers up these distractions of a trans menace and threats on religious institutions.
As is usual for places where conservatives get their media, the Post takes real problems and inverts them to fit the white grievance narrative. There are, indeed, “transgender killers,” as in “people who kill trans folks.” The murder of trans people has doubled over the past four years, and 73 percent of those trans victims were killed by a gun. Meanwhile, mass shootings at houses of worship have been steadily on the rise all this century. People of all faiths are increasingly under threat where they pray. But again, these mass murderers are not showing up to houses of worship with hammers eager to nail their manifestos to a door. They’re showing up with guns, most “legally” obtained, and that’s why worshipers are dying.
Everybody knows what the problem is, but Republicans won’t let us fix it. And so the white-wing media has to obfuscate and try to distract people from the solution Republicans are unwilling to let the rest of us implement.
So more people will die from preventable gun violence. More children will die. Republicans have stared at the bodies of dead children and decided that their deaths are acceptable. There is no bottom. There is no tragedy so horrific that it will shock Republicans out of their death cult.
Republicans are complicit in these murders. And so is everybody who votes for them.