A few years ago, Texas Senator Ted Cruz had a video made of himself with a dumb grin on his face as he fried bacon slices rolled around the barrel of an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle firing wildly.
It was a “breakfast” fit for a dangerous idiot. One who, nonetheless, carries great weight in the Republican Party. He is the darling of the National Rifle Association (NRA), the powerful gun lobby.
And now, speaking about Tuesday’s massacre in his state, at Uvalde High School, with 19 children and two teachers mowed down by the same weapon he used to cook his breakfast, Cruz called it “an unspeakable crime.” He went on to say that he joined in prayer with his wife for the victims and their families, adding, “We can and MUST do more to protect our kids” and “Enough is enough.”
The kicker? Ted Cruz is among the keynote speakers, together with Donald Trump, at the NRA summit starting Thursday in Houston.
“You can do more than pray. Faith without works is dead,” came the poignant reply from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
From the opposite wing of the Republican Party, Senator Mitt Romney offered a tweet full of tears, grief and mourning, which concludes, “I offer prayer and condolence but know that it is grossly inadequate. We must find answers.” Care to elaborate on what these are? The leader of the moderate Republican wing, a critic of Trump and Cruz, is the top recipient of funds donated by the NRA to politicians: he has received $13.5 million from the gun lobby for his election campaigns.
What about Trump? He will certainly put on a show in front of the NRA leadership in Houston. If he wins reelection in 2024, he will owe it to a significant extent to that world: the gun industry linked to the military-industrial complex that produces wars, and which produces killings and massacres (for the record, no less than 212 since the beginning of the year). Will there ever be a mass shooting that will actually become a hard line that politicians can’t skirt around anymore?
We are talking about measures to contain possible new tragedies, to prevent incidents such as Uvalde and Buffalo, just to name the last two massacres: and we are not even talking about controlling handguns and rifles, but real weapons of war, such as the AR-15. The current debate over the regulation of the trade and use of weapons is not about gun ownership, but about the ownership of assault weapons, lethal weapons capable of causing extreme carnage.
The NRA is not on board with that either. According to them, to protect yourself you should wear body armor and arm yourself, but the free trade in guns, and any kind of weapon, is untouchable in America.
This mantra will continue to reign, supported by Cruz, by Trump, by the vast majority of Republican congressmen and governors, but also by moderates like Romney.
But what about the Democrats? They, who control Congress, albeit by a razor-thin margin, aren’t even thinking about reacting immediately to Buffalo and Uvalde by bringing gun control legislation to the floor, because the bulk of Republicans would block it, as Democratic Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer admitted. What’s more, the Supreme Court is expected to soon issue a ruling nullifying laws in states like NY that place serious limits on openly carrying firearms in public places.
The feeling of the powerlessness of politics, including on the Democratic and progressive side, is very strong, in the face of a growing and worsening phenomenon: the spread of guns and their deadly use. Moreover, the phenomenon’s effects cut across America, in both urban and rural areas, and the most diverse communities. In Buffalo it was the Black community. In Uvalde it was the Latino community.
And this feeling of the powerlessness of politics, for obvious reasons, is creating growing disquiet in communities and generating insecurity, even in areas of the country once considered safe. What is more, the very image of the US is seriously wounded by it, at a time when, with Biden, it is seeking to reassert a strong role for democracy in contrast to autocracies. The image of a country where there are numerous incidents of domestic terrorism, as President Biden himself calls them, certainly does not help the case for conferring to the US the title of leading nation of the West, especially since this same domestic terrorism is an indicator of considerable social instability, and also of a political conflict that can easily erupt – likewise by virtue of the spread and use of guns – into full-blown civil war.
This is a not-so-distant nightmare if the “party of the NRA,” with the Trumps and Cruzes, regain full control of Congress in November and then regains the White House in 2024 – with Trump.