The day after the deadliest mass shooting in US History, Congressman Rodney Davis issued the following statement:
"Families from across our nation are mourning the loss of nearly 60 of their loved ones, praying for the recovery of hundreds more who were injured, and thanking God that countless others are safe. I join these families in prayer and condemn this senseless act of violence. As someone who recently experienced a gun attack, I will never politicize a tragedy, and I am disappointed by those who do...Today is a time for prayer, for mourning, for recognizing the heroic acts of first responders and others, and for uniting as Americans. We can have policy discussions another day."
On the surface, this might not seem like a statement that’s worthy of criticism, and were it said by a normal politician under normal circumstances, you might be right. However, once you know a little more about Congressman Davis, the staggering cynicism and opportunistic nature of this statement becomes apparent.
Let's get the easy stuff out of the way. We know that a.) his thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families, and b.) he wishes this wouldn't have happened. Great. His thoughts and prayers were likely with the victims of Sandy Hook, San Bernadino, and Orlando as well. Every time innocent Americans are slaughtered at a school, or at work, or at a concert, politicians like Rodney Davis condemn the act and offer their thoughts and prayers. We expect nothing less.
I say "nothing less" because the act of offering your sympathies to those affected by a tragedy is literally the least you can do. Unfortunately, and in continuing with a well-established pattern, Rep. Davis struggles to get over this incredibly low bar by immediately undercutting his own statement with self-serving and willfully ignorant political rhetoric. Rep. Davis decided to try and capitalize on the tragedy by once again donning his “civility” mask and lecturing us on proper mass shooting etiquette:
1. Don’t “politicize” this tragedy
2. Save discussions on how to prevent tragedies like this for “another day”
Again, this all seems sensible, right? Well, as with almost everything Rodney Davis says, it only seems sensible if you don’t care whether or not the things he says are true.
For instance, Rep. Davis doesn’t get to tell his constituents that they’re not allowed to politicize this tragedy when he a.) politicizes the tragedy, and b.) relies on donations and endorsements from the NRA, an increasingly radical organization whose efforts to forestall anything approaching gun violence prevention have been explicitly and unabashedly political. Yes, the same NRA that has donated 15,000 dollars to Congressman Davis’s campaigns. The same NRA that Davis enthusiastically supports with his vote, The same NRA that just recently put out one of the most paranoid and radically unhinged political ads in decades, yet didn’t receive a “civility” lecture from Congressman Davis.
As if being told we're not allowed to do the exact thing Rep. Davis himself is doing, we find out that we're also not even allowed to talk about it for fear of "disappointing" our congressman. We need need to save the discussion of how we can use policy to prevent these tragedies for "another day." It's important to note that this day will never come. If we are to follow Rep. Davis’s rules, we’ll hold off on discussing these tragedies just long enough for the next one to occur, as we've averaged a mass shooting per day this year. The road down which Congressman Davis intends to kick this can stretches into eternity.
To that end, there’s a reason Rep. Davis never wants to have this conversation. There’s a reason he is content to don the black veil every time a shooting happens, go through the motions, and move on with his life. It’s the same reason he avoids town halls, only allows softball questions during his tele-town halls, and censors his constituents on social media. This avoidance of meaningful conversation has a purpose, and it's a direct result of Rep. Davis' inability to form a coherent defense of his own record.
You see, Rep. Davis doesn’t want to talk about the fact that he didn’t say a word when Trump rescinded an Obama-era rule to prevent people with mental illnesses from purchasing guns. He doesn’t want to talk about his vote for the AHCA, which would have gutted vital mental health programs designed to reach the sort of people that commit these atrocities BEFORE they commit them. He doesn’t want to talk about the thousands of dollars he’s received from the NRA or the fact that this appears to be the primary factor in swaying his vote. He doesn’t want to talk about his vote for and support of the SHARE Act, which would ease restrictions on the purchase of silencers and armor-piercing bullets, as well as allow concealed carry holders in states with notoriously lax laws like Nevada to travel across states lines and carry their virtually unregulated concealed weapons in Illinois. The same NRA that (thanks to Rep. Davis unwavering and obedient service) has stopped every effort to establish a national database, the kind that might have tipped us off when the shooter in Nevada purchased 33 weapons (most of which were rifles) in the last year, and stockpiled thousands of rounds of ammo and dozens of high-capacity magazines. The same NRA that won't even allow us to study gun violence.
It’s long past time we stop treating politicians like Rodney Davis with the kid gloves he would prefer we treat him with and say plainly what we know to be true; Congressman Davis’ thoughts and prayers are utterly meaningless unless he’s willing to back them up with legislation to prevent further gun violence. We know it can work (in fact, Rep. Davis' colleague Adam Kinzinger is working to pass common sense legislation right now), we know the excuses Congressman Davis uses to avoid addressing this issue via legislation don't hold up to scrutiny, and we'll know who to blame if we're unable to move this conversation forward. I say this because the perpetuation of this sort of violence (which is an overwhelmingly American phenomenon) is due in large part to the intransigence and inefficacy of spineless politicians like Rodney Davis. In Rep. Davis' world, what happened in Vegas is unfortunate, but it's a price he's willing to pay in order to keep the gun lobby happy, and to keep the checks rolling in. That's the calculation he's made. Sure, his thoughts and his prayers are with the victims, but his true loyalty (and most importantly, his vote) belongs the gun lobby that pays for it.
Clearly, Congressman Davis doesn’t want to talk about any of this. Disturbingly, he's using the deaths of 60 innocent Americans to make sure you won't either.
EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Rodney Davis was a co-sponsor of the SHARE Act. He voted for an earlier version of it, and is a likely yes vote on the current version, but was not a co-sponsor. He is a co-sponsor of H.R. 38, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017, which would gut state’s gun laws, and allow countless people to carry hidden, loaded guns across the country with no background check or gun safety training, even in schools.
Photo courtesy of NBC News