In the wake of three recent mass shootings in America in the last two weeks, Republicans are once again showing their collective ass, deploying a litany of talking points about random stuff to clog up the national discourse on gun violence with anything and everything but guns.
It’s all very pellucid — a distraction tactic to avoid engaging seriously on the issue of our nation’s unprecedentedly lax gun laws and the need for national — or even state level! — gun control reform. And Republican Rep. Billy Long (MO) just dangerously added a befuddling new culprit to the mix: abortion is to blame for mass shootings.
An auctioneer, somehow-turned congressman, Long is a pretty far-right Trump guy who announced his bid for the GOP nomination in Missouri’s crowded Senate primary race to replace retiring Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) on Tucker Carlson’s show. He recently voted against Ukraine aid and a baby formula bill in the House and is actively courting Trump for an endorsement ahead of the August primaries (but so are all of his opponents). Trump hasn’t done anything official on that front yet, but Long’s campaign has had some support from Trump-ally Kellyanne Conway leading up to the primaries.
That said, these latest remarks are not super surprising coming from someone like Long. During an interview with the Missouri radio station The Eagle 93.9 on Wednesday — just days after a gunman opened fire and murdered 19 children and two adults at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and on the same day that a gunman killed five at a medical facility in Tulsa, Oklahoma — Long suggested “an inanimate object” is not to blame for the mass shooting epidemic in this country.
Access to abortion, he said, is what’s made mass-casualty gun violence a uniquely American problem over the past several decades.
“When I was growing up in Springfield, you had one or two murders a year,” he said. “Now we have two, three, four a week in Springfield, Missouri.
“So something has happened to our society. I go back to abortion, when we decided it was okay to murder kids in their mothers’ wombs. Life has no value to a lot of these folks,” he concluded.
Attempting to combat this unhinged claim almost feels unnecessary and disingenuous. The data simply does not reflect anything he’s saying. As HuffPost noted here, there were 499 murders reported in Missouri in 1970, the same year that the Supreme Court landmark ruling protecting abortion access nationally became precedent. Per HuffPost: “In 1975, the figure was 505. And in 2019, 568 murders were reported in the state.”
Long’s remarks also fly in the face of solid data — which President Biden raised during his national address after the attack in Uvalde last week. After Congress passed a sweeping assault weapons ban in the 1990s, the nation witnessed a decade of substantial decline in mass shooting deaths before the ban expired in 2004.
As my colleague Kate Riga reported last week, Republicans are doing their typical song and dance, scrambling to cast blame and offer shoddy solutions to ending mass shootings in America — all of which steer so clear of reasonable gun law talk that it’d be a stunning masterclass in deflection if the tragedies behind this farcical messaging were not so utterly horrific.
Americans are left hacking through the weeds of the GOP’s distraction schemes because the party refuses to engage seriously on guns, terrified of sacrificing their reelection prospects by doing or saying anything that might offend their powerful gun lobby donors.
And so, we’re left talking about things like “doors,” arming teachers, creating a “department that can look at young men that’s looking at women that’s looking at their social media,” the incoherent and non-existent evils of trans-rights, guarding elementary schools so aggressively with weaponry that they resemble prisons.
And, once again, attacking the right to have an abortion, which, in our almost post-Roe America, is looking increasingly like the GOP’s catchall blame bucket for all of society’s various ills.
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