A large group of Democratic lawmakers have called out new House Speaker Mike Johnson’s remarks in the wake of the Maine mass shooting in which he placed blame on people, not firearms, for the country’s gun violence epidemic.
More than 100 Democrats — led by House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force Chair Rep Mike Thompson — signed a letter to Mr Johnson, expressing their “deep concerns about your troubling comments following the devastating mass shooting” in Lewiston, Maine.
The shooting, which was the deadliest of 2023, claimed 18 lives and left 13 others wounded.
“At the end of the day, the problem is the human heart. It’s not guns. It’s not the weapons,” Mr Johnson said after the violence and then advocated for the Second Amendment in the next breath.
Democrats slammed this perspective, calling it “factually wrong” and said it “paints a dark view of America and its people.” The lawmakers argued, “Gun violence in America is not inevitable, it is simply tolerated by Republican leadership,” and called for the passage of gun legislation as an actionable way to prevent these attacks.
The lawmakers seemed to make their case personal to Speaker Johnson.
Today I’ve joined 100+ Democrats in Congress calling out the new republican leader’s callous remarks on the Maine mass murder shooting and calling on him help us finally pass gun safety laws to help end this violence. pic.twitter.com/iJhoJy9Tf6
— Bill Pascrell, Jr. 🇺🇸🇺🇦 (@BillPascrell) November 2, 2023
The House Democrats pointed to Mr Johnson’s home state of Louisiana. “The state of Louisiana has an “F” rank on the Giffords gun violence scorecard because it fails to enact universal background checks and a red flag law, has weak gun domestic violence laws, and allows assault weapons and large capacity magazines to be sold. Not surprisingly, gun deaths in Louisiana are 99 per cent above the national average, second only to Mississippi,” they wrote.
Seemingly in an appeal in an appeal to the speaker’s faith — as Mr Johnson was once the dean of a small Baptist law school that never opened — the Democrats wrote: “God’s children are being killed every day in our country in part because of the inaction of Republican leadership on gun violence prevention legislation. Families of every faith in America have empty chairs around the dinner table because Republicans have failed to answer our constituents’ prayers for action.”
“We urge you to hear the prayers of the children terrified of being killed at school and the families praying for leaders to lead. The book of John says that ‘the good shepherd lays down his life’ for his flock,” the letter continued.
The lawmakers then called for gun violence prevention legislation and asked that GOP leadership “work with us to enact common sense laws that will save lives. We stand ready to work with you on any policies that will help end gun violence.”
The White House also condemned the House Speaker’s comments earlier this week. “We absolutely reject the offensive accusation that gun crime is uniquely high in the United States because of Americans’ ‘hearts,’” Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates said in a statement.
“Gun crime is uniquely high in the United States because congressional Republicans have spent decades choosing the gun industry’s lobbyists over the lives of innocent Americans,” Mr Bates continued. “Gun violence is now the main reason that American children’s hearts stop beating. Not cancer, not car accidents — gun violence.”
He called the Maine mass shooting “the latest proof point that gun crime is an urgent national security crisis.”