In today’s episode of “What Will Republicans Blame for Gun Violence Other Than Guns,” Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) has some…ideas.
At Wednesday’s House Oversight Committee hearing on the recent mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York, congressmen listened to the devastating testimonies of survivors, victims’ family members, and other experts, as some called for bans on assault rifles to prevent future tragedies. Sessions took in their stories and pleas and then summoned the shamelessness to offer stupid alternative “solutions” to gun control.
Sessions first insisted that lawmakers listen to more experts before passing gun safety legislation—as if educators and violence prevention experts across the country haven’t been calling for assault rifle bans and other restrictions for years. The congressman then seemed to suggest students could prevent school shootings by simply being nicer to each other, placing the responsibility on children rather than lawmakers to stop gun violence. If students were “taking time every day to be nice to each other,” he said, they could “identify people who have problems” and intervene to stop a future shooting.
This sure seems to place a lot of burden, blame, and potential trauma on literal children, when we could just… pass legislation to make mass killing machines more difficult for anyone to obtain.
Sessions’s suggestions reflect a long-standing tradition of opponents of gun safety legislation blaming not just “mental health” but supposed problems with bullying or poor behavior from students at schools impacted by gun violence. Shortly after the Parkland, Florida, shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018, one conservative Parkland parent started the “Walk Up, Not Out” movement calling for kids to be kinder to each other to stop mass shootings.
Proponents of gun safety legislation are hardly pro-bullying. But there’s no denying a level of victim-blaming that goes hand-in-hand with suggesting that tragedies like Parkland or Uvalde could have been prevented if teens or small children had just exchanged words of affirmation. This is basically like telling women we can prevent the next mass shooting, carried out by an embittered incel, by dating every potentially violent, gun-owning creep we encounter on dating apps
In any case, Sessions’ bullshit didn’t stop at tasking kids with the responsibility of stopping school shootings. He also blamed a supposed, rising tide of anti-American sentiment in schools: “When I grew up, we would recite the Pledge of Allegiance… and I know we’ve heard testimony that everything about America is racist,” Sessions said, referencing the testimony of a Black mother of a survivor of the Buffalo shooting. The Buffalo gunman notably posted a white supremacist manifesto before opening fire on a grocery store serving a primarily Black neighborhood.
Sessions continued, “In our classrooms, we need to talk about our nation, our rights, and our responsibilities. Taking time every day to be nice to each other, leaving notes, knowing each other, listening.”
So, there you have it, folks! All it takes to stop the uniquely American phenomenon of near-daily mass shootings is *checks notes* teaching that America is the greatest country in the world—all while small children are forced to endure mass shootings drills because the US is the only country where this routinely happens. That, and of course, being nice to each other! Compliment a gunman, prevent a mass shooting. Got it!