"You can't make this s**t up": House Republicans wear "tone deaf" assault rifle pins amid shootings

Republicans like George Santos were seen wearing the pin during National Gun Violence Survivors Week

Published February 3, 2023 1:18PM (EST)

Reporters surround embattled Rep. George Santos (R-NY) as he heads to the House Chamber for a vote, at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Reporters surround embattled Rep. George Santos (R-NY) as he heads to the House Chamber for a vote, at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Several House Republicans this week began wearing pins in the shape of an assault rifle on their clothing during committee meetings and on the House floor, despite the fact that there have already been more than 55 mass shootings in the country in 2023.

Reps. George Santos, R-N.Y., and Anna Paulina Luna, R-Fla., were captured on camera wearing the pins on Capitol Hill. 

"Where are these assault weapon pins coming from? Who is passing these out?" asked Rep. Jimmy Gomez, D-Calif., who was the first to share images of Santos and Luna wearing the pins on Twitter. 

"Anna Paulina Luna wore an assault weapon pin at today's Oversight hearing — less than 48 hours after her state experienced a mass shooting," Gomez added in another tweet. Earlier this week, 11 people were wounded in a mass shooting in Lakeland, Florida.

"You can't make this sh*t up," he said. "This isn't the flex you think it is." 

Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., who has worn the pin for years, later said he distributed them to other members to "remind people of the Second Amendment of the Constitution and how important it is in preserving our liberties."

"Apparently I've been triggering some of my Democrat colleagues," he wrote.

Democrats roundly condemned the stunt.

"To be promoting them on the floor of the House, is despicable and I think an insult to all of the victims of assault weapons," said Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y.

"Is it really about the 2nd Amendment? Funny how you didn't mention you own the No. 4-ranked gun store in GA," questioned Gomez. "Not only are you mocking gun violence survivors during #GVSurvivors Week, but you're making a profit off of mass shootings too."

Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., defended his peers, saying it is "a matter of the First Amendment." He also claimed that Democrats are misguided for trying to ban assault weapons and requiring universal background checks, according to KFOR.

"We have many more pressing issues in this country," he said.

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"Tell that to the families that lost loved ones in Monterey Park, or the kids that were killed in Uvalde," Gomez responded. "I mean, they were so mutilated that they had to be identified by DNA."

Gomez also added that Republicans are the ones who are misguided because polls have shown that Americans support stricter gun laws. 

In response to the outrage, Luna — who also participated in a House Natural Resources panel debate to push back on firearm bans — tweeted, "the same Democrats who are voting to send firearms to Ukraine are telling me I can't carry one."

She also tweeted an image of the pin, with a note mocking Gomez. "Jimmy, stop trying to date me," the card read.

"Absolutely repulsive," tweeted Duke University Professor of Global Health and Public Policy, Gavin Yamey. "We have mass shootings almost daily, and the Republicans are wearing assault weapon pins FFS."

Samuel Perry, a University of Oklahoma Sociology professor commented on the "tone deaf" nature of the clothing symbol. 

"Republican members of congress are wearing AR-15 lapel pins. That's not just tone deaf," he tweeted. "We find Republicans value gun rights more than any other right, including freedom of speech or religion. No need for a flag or cross pin. The gun is both their patriotic & religious symbol."

Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., noted the disturbing nature of the pins, especially since it is National Gun Violence Survivors Week. "It's freaking sick. And they are doing it during #GVSurvivorsWeek," she said.

Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo, also mentioned the timing of the images. "While gun violence continues to be the leading cause of death for children in our country, @GOP members are wearing assault rifle pins during #GVSurvivorsWeek. Shameful," she wrote on Twitter.

"Always said it was just a matter of time before the GOP replaced the cross with an assault rifle," said Diana Butler Bass, an American historian of Christianity. "Guns are their god."

Rep. Gene Wu, D-Texas, explained that the GOP "has stopped playing coy and is now openly and unabashedly praising mass shooters. 

"Will there be special versions to celebrate specific mass shootings?" he asked.

Nicholas Grossman, a professor of International Relations at the University of Illinois pointed out the hypocrisy of the Republican symbol. 

"Legislators from party that defends recent coup attempt by their up-til-recently—and possibly still—party leader replace traditional patriotic flag pin with a pin depicting a rifle," he tweeted.

State Sen. Dave Min, D-Calif., gave his thoughts on the pins and recent gun-control debates. 

"The debate over 2A [the Second Amendment] has never been about 2A," he explained. "It's about 'disrupting' civilized society as we know it, and trolling the ordinary Americans concerned about our insane levels of gun violence. That's why it's the biggest assholes who are most loudly touting irresponsible gun access."

By Samaa Khullar

Samaa Khullar is a former news fellow at Salon with a background in Middle Eastern history and politics. She is a graduate of New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism institute and is pursuing investigative reporting.

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