Matt Grodsky is the Vice President, Director of Public Affairs at Matters of State Strategies, he previously served as the Director of Communications for the Arizona Democratic Party from 2019 to 2021. He is the author of Righteous Might: How Democrats Turned Arizona Blue And How You Can Flip Your Battleground State
In the aftermath of yet another tragic shooting, voters should not get pinned down in the trenches of shallow arguments made by the GOP. The tactics we have seen them use are nothing new but threaten to stifle any hope of advancing legislation to bring about real change. Their talking points will be used in every battleground state in every race and we need to be ready to refute them.
With some 60 percent of Americans supporting banning the manufacture, possession, and sale of semi-automatic rifles, and roughly 80 percent supporting expanded background checks – Arizona voters should recognize the arguments against these popular policies, identify how to combat them, and how to advance our case for change. Here are some things to start with:
This week at a press conference, in the wake of a horrific massacre at a Texas elementary school, the Governor of Texas tried to blame the shooting squarely on a lack of mental health resources. Leaders in today’s GOP will constantly try to deflect the causation of these events on pure evil and mental health. Democrats generally allow themselves to get sucked into a debate about what causes mental health disorders and how to treat them. We can’t do that here.
Our counter to Abbott’s argument is that Abbott took $500 million dollars intended for investment in things like mental illness and diverted it for immigration security stunts. Therefore his calls for mental health investment ring hollow. Additionally, what serious mental health legislation has the GOP been working to advance at any level of government? These are questions the GOP cannot answer. When it comes to mental illness, we can help sick people get the help they need without giving them access to weapons of war. Mental health and gun safety laws are not mutually exclusive policies as the GOP would like them to be.
Abbott also tried to argue against gun laws yesterday by bringing up violence in Chicago and California. This gaslighting often derails arguments about tighter gun laws all together and we tend to fall into long winded debates about urban crime rates and specific state legislation. We can’t do that.
Our answer is simple – loopholes and leniency in other states cause violence in states that have laws in place. It isn’t the suggested futility of gun safety laws themselves – it’s the lack of uniform national policy. A gun-free zone simply doesn’t matter if you can bring a weapon of war from another state, a gun-free zone doesn’t matter if you are federally barred from buying a handgun but you can purchase an assault rifle no questions asked.
Like clockwork, the GOP is already focused on “hardening schools” and perhaps reducing the number of doors in schools. Anyone who has ever gone to school knows the one door policy is garbage. When it comes to the argument of more guns in schools, the shooting this week shows that when law enforcement personnel are overmatched by an armored killer with advanced firepower the “good guy with a gun” theory goes out the window. Let’s not get into debates with the GOP about arming resource officers, they lost that debate all together this week. We need to focus on the fact that multiple police on site didn’t stop this murderer from breaching the school and killing children.
While the police response to this event is and should remain under intense scrutiny, it apparently took a tactical Border Patrol official to kill the shooter after he already murdered 21 people. The lesson here is unless we want to invest in making sure every elementary school in America is perpetually equipped with a highly armed SWAT team in the cafeteria, why don’t we just make it harder for terrorists to get weapons?
The GOP will also argue that banning assault weapons won’t make a difference because if someone wants to kill 19 children, they are going to find a way. Here we can afford to get in the weeds a little, because the point the GOP is trying to make is so asinine.
A handgun vs. an assault weapon would have meant that the shooter had to reload, that 10 year olds could have escaped, that he would have been less menacing for someone to engage. If the GOP wants to stick with this argument, Democrats should suggest then that our military doesn’t need the most advanced weaponry to fulfill its missions. If the weapon doesn’t matter and an objective can be completed regardless, surely our soldiers can get any job done with a pistol. The absurdity of this logic needs to be addressed.
The terminology we use is also important. A shooting evokes images of Hollywood movies with clean entry wounds and maybe a pool of blood. The weapon used in this massacre was designed to shred adult soldiers. It obliterates children. People were initially confused this week why DNA tests were necessary for parents to identify their kids. It’s because they were unrecognizable. These shootings cannot be allowed to be sanitized with tired vernacular, something the GOP exhaustively attempts and generally succeeds at. These children were physically destroyed by a weapon of war.
Finally, when it comes to the argument that evil is inevitable, we must hit back hard. There have always been deranged people and there’s always been evil. This isn’t new. What’s different about our country is the easy access we give to evil people to commit atrocities. If we take the tools of murder away, the damage is substantially less.
Too often, we let the GOP dictate the argument on the issue of gun violence. We need to turn their arguments around on them and expose the absurdity of what they are saying. It is incumbent on Democrats, Republicans of conscience, and Independent voters in these midterms to remind fellow voters that the GOP arguments are empty. We need to make it clear that the modern GOP has chosen to be the party of mass shootings.
Matt Grodsky at Matters of State Strategies is the gold standard for strategic thinking and messaging around the political issues of our times. His analysis on the GOP response to mass shootings in America can not be ignored if Democrats are to send a title wave of Blue voters across the land in November. Yes we can!