On Monday, a 28-year-old armed with two assault rifles and a handgun broke into a Nashville school and murdered three 9-year-old children and three adults, just the latest deadly school shooting in the United States of America. Republicans are offering a different response than their usual, because of one fact: The shooter is reportedly transgender.
The U.S. has school shooting after school shooting, and Republicans respond with thoughts and prayers and obstruction of meaningful gun laws. But let one shooter be trans, and it’s time for action—action against trans people.
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“How much hormones like testosterone and medications for mental illness was the transgender Nashville school shooter taking?” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene tweeted. “Everyone can stop blaming guns now.” Hormones did not kill those six people—guns did—yet Greene’s apparent implication is that medical care was responsible for the shooting. Meanwhile, Tennessee has banned gender-affirming care for trans youth, although research shows that gender-affirming care dramatically reduces suicide risk in trans and nonbinary youths.
Donald Trump, Jr. weighed in. So did Sen. J.D. Vance, writing, “We're still learning about the horrific shooting in Nashville. But if early reports are accurate that a trans shooter targeted a Christian school, there needs to be a lot of soul searching on the extreme left. Giving in to these ideas isn't compassion, it's dangerous.”
Here’s the thing. We don’t know much about the shooter. What we do know is that the shooter’s name was Audrey Hale, and he went by he/him pronouns. We know he was a former student of the private Christian school he attacked, and that access to guns undeniably enabled him to do it.
Most mass shooters, at schools and in other locations, are cisgender males. In fact, at least 95% of mass shootings are perpetrated by cisgender men, according to analysis by Mother Jones magazine dating back to 1982, and a Violence Project analysis dating back to 1966. That a mass shooter is a cisgender man is basically taken for granted at this point. But what they all have in common is the guns they use to murder with.
That’s not going to stop the Republican hate campaign, an effort to distract from the guns and point a finger instead at the shooter’s gender identity.
News of a “manifesto” is big among Republicans, even though we have no reliable public reporting on what that manifesto might have said, and despite the fact that Republicans have repeatedly dismissed shooters’ manifestos when they reveal far-right influences. It is by now an article of faith on the right that this was a hate crime against Christians (again, remember that the shooter attended the Covenant School) by a trans person. Citing a right-wing tweet about a supposed “Trans Day of Vengeance,” Sen. Josh Hawley tweeted, “This kind of hateful rhetoric - ‘genocide’ and ‘day of vengeance’ - must be condemned. The hate crime massacre in Nashville exposes where rhetoric like this can lead.”
The original tweet has since been taken down, but Hawley’s baseless observations remain. Hawley, by the way, was the lone Senate vote against a hate crimes bill. But now he’s all concerned about hate crimes.
“Transgender people are actually those among us who are more likely to be the target of violent hate crimes across the country every day—because of this very kind of demonization—and the actions of GOP politicians and MAGA commentators will only further embolden the hate that leads to violence,” Michelangelo Signorile wrote.
There’s so much we don't know, but Republicans are rushing to take one little sliver of the available information and construct a whole new branch of their ongoing campaign against trans people while conducting their well-practiced rejection of the thing we do know every single time we watch the aftermath of a mass shooting—that it happened because of virtually unfettered access to guns in this country.
Six innocent people are dead, three of them children. And it was not the shooter’s gender identity that sent bullets speeding into their bodies.
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It's just barely springtime in an off year, but there's been loads of election news lately, so co-hosts David Nir and David Beard have a super-sized roundup on this week's episode of The Downballot. The Davids recap the first round of voting in the race for Jacksonville mayor (which saw Democrats do unusually well) and the collapse of an effort to recall New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell before turning to big batch of 2024 updates.
On tap for the Senate: The GOP's desperate effort to compete with Democratic fundraising enthusiasm by recruiting self-funders; why Republicans are afraid the guy who succeeded John Boehner in Congress will try to challenge Sherrod Brown; and how Democrats' plans to clear the field in Michigan may not succeed. Plus developments in the battle for New Hampshire's governorship, a key House seat in Wisconsin, and the saga of Tennessee's answer to George Santos.