Column: The Republican response to shootings is the very definition of insanity

People outside a movie theater in front of 12 small crosses.
We could keep building makeshift memorials at the sites of more and more mass shootings. Or we could prevent a lot of mass shootings. The choice is ours.
(Ed Andrieski / Associated Press)

James Holmes bought his last gun — an AR-15 assault rifle — on June 7, 2012.

In the two months prior, the then 24-year-old also legally purchased a Remington 12-gauge shotgun, two .40-caliber Glock handguns, tear gas grenades, bomb-making material, handcuffs and more than 6,300 rounds of ammunition.

The night Holmes attacked the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colo., he was wearing a bulletproof vest and leggings, a gas mask, a ballistics helmet and gloves. Roughly 30 minutes into the movie, Holmes released the tear gas he had bought online, causing the unsuspecting attendees to cough and choke as their eyes burned. Then the shots came. Twelve died and 70 others were injured that night in July 2012, in what was then said to be the highest-casualty shooting in U.S. history.


The Pulse nightclub shooting passed that number in 2016. Then the Las Vegas shooting surpassed Pulse in 2017.

You know what’s no longer in the top 10? Columbine.

Opinion Columnist

LZ Granderson

LZ Granderson writes about culture, politics, sports and navigating life in America.

And so here we are, 10 years after Holmes bought the last gun for the arsenal he would use in a historic mass shooting, and what do 44% of Republicans believe we can do to stop the next mass shooting?

Not a thing.

That was just one of the disturbing revelations to come from a recent CBS News poll on the country’s views of guns and gun violence. Even as we learn more details about the mass shooter in Uvalde, Texas — the mental health red flags, how the low age requirement for purchasing assault weapons helped him — when asked whether mass shootings were something we could “prevent and stop if we really tried,” 85% of Democrats and 73% of independents said yes. Just 56% of Republicans agreed. The rest believe what happened is “unfortunately something we have to accept as part of a free society.”

Feeling the need to bring a gun to church is not the sign of a free society. It is the sign of a society under siege. And that’s what we are. Under siege.

But not by an outside force. No, we are doing this to ourselves.

Will the fringe be able to keep the GOP congresswoman in office now that she has shown herself to be wildly unfit?

Each time there is a mass shooting, national gun sales spike. Happened after Aurora. Happened after Sandy Hook. San Bernardino. It’s not just in red states, mind you. A government study published in 2020 found that “every year since 2012, California has strengthened gun laws in response to mass shootings yet sales have risen immediately preceding enactment of these laws each January.”

Everybody’s doing it. And as a result, the country has more guns than people. Now we find ourselves a nation with no place to hide. We literally have no public space remaining where a mass shooting isn’t feasible and what has been the repeated solution offered by Republicans? We need more guns. It’s like we’re in an arms race with ourselves. On second thought, it’s an arms race against ourselves.

Want to know what Rep. Louie Gohmert, Republican of Texas, said after the mass shooting in the movie theater in 2012? “Well it does make me wonder, you know with all those people in the theater, was there nobody that was carrying that could’ve stopped this guy more quickly?”

I wondered a lot of things about that mass shooting, such as, “Why was he able to amass that much military-grade weaponry as fast as I can get another box of Claritin-D?” What I didn’t wonder is, “Why wasn’t there a shootout in the dark movie theater full of tear gas and people?” But that’s Gohmert, always thinking outside of the box. During last week’s House hearing on gun violence, he took offense to the notion that Republicans were “complicit in murder and that we put our right to kill over others’ right to live.” I wonder if he knows 44% in his party believe mass shootings are just the cost of doing business in a “free society.”

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Before the shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, Louisiana was considering a bill that would have allowed people to carry a concealed firearm without training, registration or a permit. After the shootings, state lawmakers wrote amendments to the bill to arm teachers and administrators. It failed, but it did make the state’s conservative worldview crystal clear: What the world needs now is guns, more guns.

That’s not just in Louisiana. In that CBS poll, 72% of Republicans believe teachers and administrators should be armed. Fifty-two percent of conservatives said allowing “more law-abiding citizens to carry guns in public” would help “a lot.” Only 13% of Republicans believe we would be safer with fewer guns, apparently using a definition of the word “safer” that is very different from my own.

Texas state leaders working to erase the votes of people of color are one face of the same movement that leads a gunman to target Black people.

Holmes, who is serving life in prison, sent his journal to a psychiatrist before he began his killing spree 10 years ago. In it, he revealed that he had considered attacking an airport but changed his mind because he didn’t want what he was doing to be misconstrued as a terrorist attack. The journal read in part: “Terrorism isn’t the message. The message is, there is no message.”

A dark glimpse inside the mind of a killer. A killer who was able to buy weapons of war, tear gas and 6,300 rounds of ammunition without so much as a blip on the radar. And 44% of Republicans feel there’s nothing we can do about mass shootings.

Nothing at all … except perhaps add more guns.