Heather Cox Richardson | Letters from an American
June 7, 2022
Today, President Biden signed nine bipartisan bills designed to improve veterans’ health care and to honor those who have served in our nation’s military. It was an upbeat hour in the midst of a storm gathering as the nation takes on both gun safety legislation and the events of January 6.
Today, Good Morning America ran an 8-minute segment with teacher Arnulfo Reyes, who was wounded in the massacre at Uvalde, Texas, where on May 24 a gunman murdered 19 schoolchildren and 2 teachers and wounded 17 others. The gunman badly wounded Reyes before murdering all 11 of the children in his classroom. In a powerful interview, Reyes vowed, “I will not let these children and my coworkers die in vain. I will not. I will go to the end of the world to not let my students die in vain.”
Then, actor Matthew McConaughey, who is from Uvalde, gave a passionate speech to reporters from the press podium at the White House. A gun owner himself, McConaughey called for strengthening our gun safety laws with background checks, raising the minimum age to purchase an AR-15 rifle to 21, instituting a waiting period for those rifles, and establishing red-flag laws. “These are reasonable, practical, tactical regulations to our nation, states, communities, schools, and homes,” he said.
McConaughey described the children and teachers who lost their lives at the Robb Elementary School, and explained just how the killer’s AR-15 so destroyed their bodies that they had to be identified by DNA… or by their signature sneakers. He warned that “Responsible gun owners are fed up with the Second Amendment being abused and hijacked by some deranged individuals. These regulations are not a step back; they’re a step forward for a civil society and—and the Second Amendment,” he said.
He urged lawmakers—and Americans—to come together to pass legislation to protect our children. “Because I promise you, America—you and me, who—we are not as divided as we’re being told we are…. How about we get inspired? Give ourselves just cause to revere our future again. Maybe set an example for our children, give us reason to tell them, ‘Hey, listen and watch these men and women. These are great American leaders right here. Hope you grow up to be like them.’ And let’s admit it: We can’t truly be leaders if we’re only living for reelection…. We’ve got to make choices, make stands, embrace new ideas, and preserve the traditions that can create true—true progress for the next generation.”
As McConaughey finished and left the podium, James Rosen from Newsmax called out: “Were you grandstanding just now, sir?”
That response reflects the continuing dislike of Republicans for gun safety regulations. While the House will begin tomorrow to discuss passing a federal red-flag law, a minimum age requirement that a buyer has to be 21 to purchase a semiautomatic rifle, and a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines, these measures will not get through the Senate, where the filibuster enables Republicans to stop legislation unless Democrats can muster a supermajority of 60 votes.
Senate Republicans have already said that they will not consider the regulations experts think are central to stopping mass shootings: an assault weapons ban such as we had until 2004, limits on ammunition magazines, and expansions of background checks to cover private gun sales are all off the table. They also say an age limit of 21 to purchase an assault-type rifle like that AR-15 is unlikely.
Republicans seem to be feeling the pressure of constituents angry at more and more frequent mass shootings. “This moment is different,” McConaughey said, in an echo of gun safety activist and Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg. “We are in a window of opportunity right now that we have not been in before, a window where it seems like real change—real change can happen.”
And yet, Republicans who have embraced an ideology that rejects federal regulations and celebrates the idea of gun-carrying men cannot accept the gun safety rules most people want. So they are turning to extremist rhetoric. Jennifer Bendery reported in the Huffington Post that the extremist American Firearms Association warned of “tens of thousands of Bloomberg-funded, red shirt radical, commie mommies all over the Capitol complex.” Its leaders told members to prepare for “battle” at the U.S. Capitol. “They’re coming after us right now,” a fundraising email warned.
Republicans are also under pressure from the upcoming hearings of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol. They have announced that they will launch counterprogramming to the committee hearings, and those Republicans most likely to carry water for Trump are already on social media trying to undercut the committee and to stir up new scandals of one sort or another.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Representatives Jim Jordan (R-OH), Jim Banks (R-IN) and Elise Stefanik (R-NY) will lead the way in arguing that the committee is illegitimate and out of touch. According to a document obtained by Vox, Trump has asked his chief supporters to shape the media coverage of the hearings and to “control and drive messaging using the channels we control.”
Republican leaders appear eager to attack the committee without explicitly defending Trump, for it’s not clear yet just how bad he will appear in the story the committee tells. Tonight, U.S. District Judge David O. Carter ordered lawyer John Eastman to turn over another file of emails…by tomorrow. Some of them, he said, fall under the crime-fraud exception to attorney-client privilege, and he outlined how “Dr. Eastman and President Trump’s plan to disrupt the Joint Session was fully formed and actionable as early as December 7, 2020.”
The Fox News Channel says it will not carry the January 6 committee hearings live, although CBS, ABC, NBC, PBS, and CNN will. As Sawyer Hackett, a co-host of the Our America podcast, noted, the Fox News Channel “ran 1,098 primetime segments on Benghazi from the day of the attack until the committee hearings, which they carried live for more than 7 hours.”
The Department of Homeland Security today issued a new bulletin in the National Terrorism Advisory System, stating that the U.S. “remains in a heightened threat environment.” It noted that “[t]he continued proliferation of false or misleading narratives regarding current events could reinforce existing personal grievances or ideologies, and in combination with other factors, could inspire individuals to mobilize to violence.” Stories that the government is unwilling or unable to secure the southern border and the upcoming Supreme Court decision about abortion rights might lead to violence, it said.
Also, it noted: “As the United States enters mid-term election season this year, we assess that calls for violence by domestic violent extremists directed at democratic institutions, political candidates, party offices, election events, and election workers will likely increase.”