Amid a mass shooting epidemic of unimaginable proportions that’s leaving children dead in their classrooms, the National Rifle Association held its annual conference in Indianapolis, Indiana, Friday night, and a number of Republican presidential hopefuls showed up. Former Vice President Mike Pence, notably, was loudly booed by the crowd, while Donald Trump was given a hero’s welcome.
In his speech, Trump rolled through all the usual greatest hits, blaming everything but guns for mass shootings. I don’t want to quote his bullshit, so I’ll paraphrase. He said:
- Guns are not the problem (yes they are)
- Trans hormone therapy is to blame for this violence (the overwhelming majority of mass shooters are cisgender men, and gender affirming care actually leads to better mental health for trans people)
- We must increase security at schools and arm teachers (studies show that more armed adults at schools do not help; a mass shooting just this week occurred at a bank, which are full of security)
- Common psychiatric drugs and marijuana are causing psychotic breaks that lead to these shootings (...no)
So why does this speech matter? I don’t want to have to write about anything Donald Trump says, ever. I think often about what Anna Merlan wrote for us in 2015, before he was even president:
We in the media find ourselves in a disquieting position. We have to write about Donald Trump, who is a deeply stupid person: a crude, nasty, bloviating man always willing to shout himself hoarse about terrorist Muslims, rapist Mexicans, probably-menstruating Fox hosts....It’s obvious that he hasn’t given a single thing he says more than five seconds of thought, that his brain is an arid wasteland punctuated by moats of nacho cheese.
And yet: he’s still a frontrunner in the GOP race, long after he shouldn’t be, and he continues, insistently, to make news.
I truly can’t believe all this remains true a full eight years later, and yet...Trump once again is the top contender in the Republican presidential primary, despite facing dozens of new felony charges. And as American voters become increasingly angry about the lack of gun restrictions in this country, the fact that Trump and Pence both showed up to this conference amid the latest high-profile spate of mass shootings is revealing: It shows that the GOP remains confident as ever that it can win elections by openly jerking off to AR-15s, even with a candidate like Trump who’s probably never used a gun in his life.
Further, Trump veering off the typical NRA talking points to target trans people, specifically—I haven’t combed through past years of NRA conference speeches, but I’m pretty sure none of them have ever blamed shootings on hormone therapy—underscores the extent to which GOP has settled on gender politics as its galvanizing social issue for the 2024 cycle. Abortion wasn’t helping them, so they’ll pretend to be afraid of trans people now.
I’ll leave you with NRA CEO and cartoon villain Wayne LaPierre saying the quiet part out loud tonight: