It's bigger than guns: Why the right does little to stop violence

Conservatives have cultivated a negative and hyper-individualistic view of human nature

By Chauncey DeVega

Senior Writer

Published May 12, 2023 5:30AM (EDT)

Assault rifles hang on the wall for sale (JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
Assault rifles hang on the wall for sale (JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

On Saturday, an avowed white supremacist neo Nazi attacked a mall in Allen, Texas, killing at least eight people and wounding seven others. Children were among the casualties.

As seen in many other mass killings in America, the apparent terrorist's weapon of choice was an AR-15 assault-style rifle. The AR-15 and its variants are literally weapons of war designed for maximum and efficient killing at close to mid-range distances.

How did the Republican Party, "conservatives", and other gun fetishists and ammosexuals respond to the tragedy in Allen, Texas? Their usual talking points about "gun rights" and "freedom" again show that they value guns more than human rights, safety, and human life – even if such values demand sacrificing America's children to the gun god Moloch.

On Saturday, former Fox "News" propagandist Megyn Kelly recited these fictions and fantasies on Twitter:

Serious q for gun control advocates: you've failed to effect change. Pls face it. You can't do it, thx to the 2A. We're all well aware you don't like that fact, but fact it is. What's next? Must we just stay here sad, concerned, lamenting? Could we possibly talk OTHER SOLUTIONS?

Mental health interventions (smthg real, not the BS we now do), greater willingness to lock ppl up (w/protocols in place for civil libs) who are deemed to be threats, fortification of soft targets, coordination of media response to not lionize shooters, etc.

On Tuesday, during an appearance on Fox "News", Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn made the ridiculous suggestion that an armed posse of "grandparents" would be a viable solution to America's plague of mass shootings:

"To have this grant pool and to allow local school systems and local law enforcement to work together to bring in veterans and retired law enforcement to serve as a security officer at a school — they know how to use weapons….They know to de-escalate situations. I've talked to a lot of them. They like this idea. They are grandparents like we are — my husband and I are grandparents — and they want to be there to help protect children."

Fact 1: Criminologists and other experts have shown that the presence of armed guards do not substantially influence the decision by mass shooters about what schools to attack.

Fact 2: As seen in the horrific mass murder at a school in Uvalde, Texas, a heavily armed police force cowered, refusing to enter a school because they were in terror of one killer who was armed with an AR-15 assault-style rifle.

Instead of advocating for reasonable and effective gun control policies in response to the mass shooting in Allen, Texas, a law has been proposed to expand training for school children in first aid, triage, and other skills as though they are miniature combat medics.

At TODAY! Danielle Campoamor reports:

Since 2020, Texas law has mandated that schools offer students as young as seventh graders lessons in "battlefield trauma care," where children learn how to apply tourniquets and chest seals in class.

"The first (bill) was in light of the shooting at Santa Fe, to provide support to middle- and high-school-age kids ... and to help them feel confident that they could help their friends who might be suffering from a bleeding situation," Barry Haenisch, executive director with the Texas Association of Community Schools, an organization that represents small, mid-sized and rural public school districts in Texas, tells

Now, lawmakers have introduced a state bill that would expand the classes to include kids as young as third graders.

The bill is sparking controversy as the nation prepares to mark one year since the deadly Robb Elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, and after three small children were shot and killed inside a private Christian school in Nashville, Tennessee.

"I just see third graders as babies," Haenisch says. "I would need somebody (to) show me how they could be composed enough, even if they were well-trained and knew exactly what to do, to carry it (out)."

House Bill 1147, which regulates mandatory "bleeding control stations" in Texas schools, would require districts or charter schools to offer annual "instruction on the use of a bleeding control station."

The bill also outlines what instruments children as young as 8 would learn to use at the stations, including "tourniquets approved for use in battlefield trauma care by the armed forces," chest seals and bleeding-control bandages.

Parents must opinto the battlefield trauma care instruction and provide written permission for their children to attend the sessions.

After the mass shooting in Nashville where 6 people were killed, including 3 children, at a school, Republican state Rep. William Lamberth asked students who were protesting gun violence,"If there is a firearm out there that you're comfortable being shot with, please show me which one it is".

When asked by reporters about school violence and his own child's safety in the aftermath of the Nashville massacre, Republican Rep. Republican Representative Tim Burchett dismissively replied that he doesn't send his daughter to public school "Well, we homeschool her".

The New Republic adds this additional context:

Despite Burchett's cynicism, there are a number of actual government policies that would decrease gun violence, like enhanced background checks. The Tennessee representative, however, voted against a bill expanding background checks on gun sales in 2021.

On his supposed Christian values, Burchett was one of 62 Republicans who found a way to vote against a bill that aimed to support hate crime victims. He also voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act that helps prevent and respond to domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking.  Not to be mistaken as someone who actually cares about achieving national harmony, Burchett did support efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.

Republicans in Congress are now wearing lapel pins that resemble AR-15 assault rifles. Their claim is that these lapel pins symbolize support for "gun rights". In reality, these AR-15 lapel pins are an attempt to mock victims of gun violence and those others who want effective gun control laws.

Republicans reject gun control because that would deprive them of the ability to use violence, fear and intimidation to achieve their political and wider societal goals.

The choice to wear gun pendants is also a none too subtle threat of violence against Democrats and other Americans who refuse to submit to the Republican fascists and MAGA movement.

When Republicans, "conservatives", and other gun fetishists engage in such behavior after a mass shooting and/or in response to discussions of gun violence as a public health crisis more generally, too many Democrats, liberals, progressives, and others who want a humane society, respond by being shocked and aghast. In all, what is a broken record of disbelief and amazement that the Republicans and the "gun rights lobby" would act in such a way when faced with more dead bodies and maimed people and ruined lives.

Such reactions reflect how too many people (in the political class and news media as well as everyday Americans) who exist outside of the right-wing echo chamber and closed episteme (be it "red state America" or the "MAGAverse" or the "Trumpocene") have delusionally and naively convinced themselves that the Republican Party and "conservative" movement's callous indifference towards gun violence is at best a gaffe or mistake, and at worse a character flaw or something that can be corrected through education and correct information.

In reality, the right-wing's (literal) death embrace of guns (and resulting gun violence) represents something far worse and more dangerous for American democracy and normal society: these beliefs and policies are a type of political philosophy and theory of human nature and society where violence is incorrectly believed to be everywhere, unavoidable, and thus we should come to accept it as normal. And moreover, that violence is an unavoidable and "natural" way of resolving political disputes, conflicts, and other questions. This is the beating heart and foundation of fascism and other illiberal politics.

In total, the right views "society" as being a type of Hobbesian state of nature, something Darwinian, "ruled by survival of the fittest" where life is "nasty, brutish and short." In that world, the Republicans and other "conservatives" and members of the right wing are determined to be the winners no matter what.

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Such a political vision and theory of society and human nature actually gives the Republicans and other "conservatives", neofascists and assorted malign actors a perverse incentive to create the circumstances where violence and other forms of social disorder and insecurity predominate. Why? A need for "safety and security" pulls people into the orbit of the fascist-authoritarian movement, party, and Great Leader.

As expressed by most rank-and-file members of the American right wing, such a crude belief in the primacy of violence and a negative and hyper-individualistic view of human nature and behavior is not an ideology as most political theorists and philosophers would strictly define it. But as a practical matter such beliefs and behavior, especially as understood and developed by right-wing elites, have a huge impact on not just guns, but politics and society more broadly.

As William Kleinknecht, Nancy MacLean, Wendy Brown, Sheldon Wolin, Chris Hedges, Thom Hartmann, Lisa Duggan and many others have extensively detailed such anti-human beliefs (as part of a larger culture of cruelty) take the form of ending democracy, destroying the social safety net, and fully deregulating the market so that big business and the richest Americans can act with impunity as they hoard even more wealth and income, prey upon the commons, gut democracy, destroy the environment, and shorten the lives of the public – especially those human beings they view as "disposable" or "surplus."

A belief in a "winner takes all" society also means that attempts to lessen social inequality and injustice as part of an attempt to expand democracy are viewed as anathema, the exact opposite of the type of the fully hierarchal society the right-wing and "conservatives" are trying to create.

As part of that revolutionary project, America's public education system and schools have become a literal battlefield during the last few decades with the rise of the neoliberal gangster capitalist regime in the Reagan era because they are, ideally, democratic spaces where good citizens are created and there is safety from violence and other antisocial behavior and the larger culture of cruelty. 

Republicans reject gun control because that would deprive them of the ability to use violence, fear and intimidation to achieve their political and wider societal goals as they dominate and oppress their "enemies," meaning Democrats, liberals, progressives, Black and brown people, the LGBTQ community, feminists, atheists, "non-Christians", Muslims, unions, and any other targeted groups and individuals deemed to be the Other and "the enemy".

The Jan. 6 coup attempt and the rise in right-wing terrorism, hate crimes, other political violence, and mass shootings (as seen in Allen, Texas last week) during the Age of Trump and beyond are not coincidental to the American neofascist project but instead are central to it.

By Chauncey DeVega

Chauncey DeVega is a senior politics writer for Salon. His essays can also be found at He also hosts a weekly podcast, The Chauncey DeVega Show. Chauncey can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.

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Allen Commentary Democracy Crisis Fascism Gun Lobby Gun Violence Guns Mass Shootings Nra Republican Party Texas