Senate Republicans are now trying to argue that passing stronger gun control measures would make them racist
In the wake of two horrific mass shootings in less than a week — first when eight people were killed in a rampage at multiple Asian spas in Atlanta, and then when 10 people were killed at a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado — the national spotlight on gun control politics has been turned back on. No new legislation has even been introduced, but Senate republicans are already shoring up their arguments against common sense gun laws — and this time around, they have a new argument: Gun control is racist.
During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday about gun violence, GOP lawmakers framed gun control as part of our nation’s racist history of infringing on the rights of minority groups. Yes, the same GOP lawmakers who have claimed our country has no racist history and who have pushed back against programs that teach students about slavery and systemic racism, but I digress.
“Very often, inevitably in American history but even prior to American history, we’ve seen it’s rarely the empowered, very rarely the wealthy or those with political connections to the government, who have their rights interfered with,” said Sen. Mike Lee, a Republican from Utah.
Maybe the most jaw-dropping part of the hearing, though, was testimony from a witness invited by Republican senators: Chris Cheng, a sports shooter and winner of season four of the History Channel show Top Shot. Cheng made an impassioned speech relating gun control to the country’s history of infringing on the rights of minority groups, including the imprisonment of Japanese-Americans during WWII. “We need to defend ourselves,” he said.
“Thoughts and prayers alone are not enough. We need action,” said Sen. Ted Cruz at the hearing, using words typically invoked by Democrats who are pushing for stronger gun laws. He was arguing against an assault rifle ban and universal background checks calling the measures, “ridiculous theatre where this committee gets together and proposes a bunch of laws that would do nothing to stop this violence.”
The Senate is not even considering any gun control bills at this time. The House has passed two that the Senate has not yet taken up for debate. President Joe Biden has called on lawmakers to pass legislation that would close background check loopholes and limit the sales of assault-style weapons like AR-15 rifles, which have been used in nearly all major mass shootings in the U.S. in the last several years, including Boulder, Sandy Hook, and the Las Vegas massacre in 2017 that left a staggering 61 people dead.
“I don’t need to wait another minute, let alone an hour, to take common-sense steps that will save the lives in the future, and to urge my colleagues in the House and Senate to act,” Biden said during an event to eulogize those who died in the Boulder shootings.
“We can ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in this country once again,” he said. “I got that done when I was a senator. It passed. It was the law for the longest time. And it brought down these mass killings. We should do it again.”
The two House bills that are awaiting Senate action would expand universal background checks, a policy that has overwhelming support from voters in both parties. Republicans in Congress have historically vehemently opposed any and all gun control measures, including background check legislation.