Just a few days ago, Mike Johnson was one of the lesser-known members of Congress. Now he’s been catapulted to speaker and into the fierce competition for most loathable House Republican. He worked hard to make the case for himself on that one in an interview with Sean Hannity that aired Thursday night—and managed to distinguish himself on guns by bringing an exceptional level of smarminess and condescension to the same old discredited Republican talking points.
Speaking about the mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine, Johnson insisted, “At the end of the day, the problem is the human heart. It’s not guns. It’s not the weapons. At the end of the day, we have to protect the right of the citizens to protect themselves, and that’s the Second Amendment, and that’s why our party stands so strongly for that.” He added that “this is not the time to be talking about legislation; we’re in that crisis right now,” although he most certainly thinks there is a crisis in Israel and it’s time to be talking about funding for Israel, and that there is a crisis on the border and it’s time to be talking about anti-immigrant legislation.
As is always observed when Republicans claim that mental illness—or, in this case, “the human heart”—is the real cause of mass shootings, we know it’s the guns. Other countries have mental illness (and human hearts) and they don’t have mass shootings like we do. It’s a claim that’s so false it’s insulting, and yet Republicans continue to lead with it.
Unfortunately, Johnson wasn’t done:
Asked by Hannity if there was any gun legislation he would consider, Johnson layered on the fake self-deprecation, saying with an oily smile, “Well, been on the job for 48 hours, we’ll see.” Then, without having quite said “no, there’s not,” he pivoted to an excuse for that position:
You know, in Europe and in other places, they use vehicles to mow down crowds at parades. They’ve done that here in the United States. It’s not the weapon that’s the underlying problem. I believe we have to address the root problems of these things and mental health obviously, as in this case, is a big issue, and we’ve got to seriously address that as a society and as a government, and there’s lots of measures pending on that as well.
If Republicans wanted to fully fund a national mental health system available to everyone at low or no cost, that would be great! It wouldn’t end mass shootings, but it would be a wonderful thing.
About that “they use vehicles to mow down crowds” thing, though. It is true that vehicles plowing into crowds and killing people is a thing that happens with disturbing regularity. In the United States, sometimes they’re targeting protesters for things like Black Lives Matter, in which case prominent Republicans want to pardon them. But wherever it happens and whoever the victims are, there’s a clear difference. Let’s check out some headlines and then you can head to the comments and tell me if you see it. Here are cars:
Here are guns:
The mass shooting entries could go on much longer. Those cars-mowing-people-down entries are the most serious cases my searches turned up, and they go back to 2003.
It’s safe to say that people are always going to kill other people. It is possible to force them to do it in less efficient ways. Our laws can say, “You can have cars or knives because they have uses other than killing people and are not actually the most effective way to kill large numbers of people at once, but you cannot have the guns that have no real uses other than killing people and can kill a large number of people within minutes.”
Rebutting Republican talking points on guns is like banging your head against a wall, though. It’s easy to do but doesn’t accomplish much. Still, it’s worth noting Johnson’s style: The hackneyed talking points delivered so smoothly, the condescension oozing from every pore as he says just ridiculously false, stupid things. He truly is Jim Jordan in a less shouty package.