Days after several children and adults were killed in a school shooting in Nashville, Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) and Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) got into a shouting match over gun control legislation in a hallway of the Capitol on Wednesday.
Bowman — a former middle school principal — was standing in a hall outside the House chamber, telling reporters that Republicans were “gutless” and “cowards” for not backing gun control laws.
“They’re all cowards! They won’t do anything to save the lives of our children at all!” Bowman yelled in the hallway as several lawmakers passed by unbothered. “Pressure them, force them to respond to the question: Why the hell won’t you do anything to save America’s children? Let them explain that all the way up to Election Day on 2024.”
But Massie — who posted a Christmas photo of him and his family holding guns and asking Santa to “please bring ammo” in 2021 — stopped to engage.
“What are you talking about?” he asked.
“I’m talking about gun violence,” Bowman responded.
“You know, there’s never been a school shooting in a school that allows teachers to carry,” Massie said.
“Carry guns? More guns lead to more death. Look at the data, You’re not looking at any data… States that have open carry laws have more deaths,” Bowman yelled back.
Massie repeatedly asked Bowman if he would co-sponsor a legislation the Republican introduced last year attempting to repeal a federal ban on guns in school zones. The New York Democrat kept replying “more guns lead to more death.”
It is unclear what statistics Massie was referencing during the shouting match, although he has previously referred to data from John Lott — a controversial pro-gun researcher who was ousted from the DOJ after a short stint as a senior advisor for research and statistics at the Office of Justice Programs during the Trump administration — who argued that bans on guns in schools are ineffective.
“Are you listening to what I’m saying?” Bowman asked.
“Yes, calm down,” Massie replied.
“Calm down? Children are dying,” Bowman retorted. “Nine-year-old children. The solution is not arming teachers.”
Massie is referring to states where individuals other than police or security officials are allowed to carry guns on school grounds. At least 29 states have laws that make it possible for teachers to be armed, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
That’s despite many police groups, teachers’ unions and gun control advocates opposing the strategy, saying concealed carry programs in schools create more risks than solutions, according to the New York Times. A 2018 Gallup poll also found 73% of teachers oppose carrying guns in schools.
The verbal brawl between the two congressmen — which comes after three children and three adults were killed in a Nashville school shooting this week — is an extension of the long-standing debate around gun control between Republicans and Democrats. Republicans have for a long time refused to support restrictions on firearms. Meanwhile, over the years, Democrats have pushed many measures to address gun violence that ultimately went nowhere.
In fact, the bipartisan gun bill that passed last summer — intended to prevent people like domestic-violence offenders and individuals with criminal backgrounds and people deemed a threat to themselves or others, from accessing firearms and increase investments in the nation’s mental health system — was the first major gun safety legislation passed by Congress in nearly 30 years.