An 18-year-old gunman shot his grandmother Tuesday in Uvalde, Texas, a Hispanic town 85 miles west of San Antonio, before going to a local elementary school. He found a teacher and 19 fourth-graders in a classroom. He locked the door behind him. He shot them to pieces.
The shooter is dead. Police broke down a barricade and killed him. Salvador Rolando Ramos went to Robb Elementary School, the site of the shooting. Not since Sandy Hook, nearly a decade ago, down the road from where I’m writing, have so many children been massacred.
Many facts are still being determined. Known is that Ramos legally purchased two semiautomatic rifles days before the rampage. One he left in his vehicle. The other he took with him. He wore a “tactical vest.” He left a backpack full of magazines at the entrance. Per the AP:
One of the guns was purchased at a federally licensed dealer in the Uvalde area on May 17, according to Sen. John Whitmire. Ramos bought 375 rounds of ammunition the next day, then purchased the second rifle on May 20. On that day, an Instagram account appearing to belong to the gunman shared a photo of two AR-style rifles.
By Tuesday afternoon, Ted Cruz, US Senator from Texas, tweeted that he and wife Heidi were “fervently lifting up in prayer the children and families in the horrific shooting in Uvalde. We are in close contact with local officials, but the precise details are still unfolding. Thank you to heroic law enforcement & first responders for acting so swiftly.”
In response, Arizona Congressman Ruben Gallego, a Democrat, tweeted: “Just to be clear fuck you @tedcruz you fucking baby killer.”
Perhaps no one in the Congress represents “gun rights” more than Ted Cruz. In a Senate hearing held the week after another 18-year-old gunman shot to pieces 10 Black people on Buffalo’s eastside, Cruz accused his Democratic colleagues, who proposed a federal red-flag law, of trying to criminalize the conduct of “law-abiding citizens.”
If the objective is to stop violent crime, what is effective is targeting actual violent criminals. The approach of today’s Senate Democrats is to try to go after the firearms of law-abiding citizens instead of targeting the violent criminals that are the real threat.
He said something similar last night on CNN:
Inevitably when there's a murderer of this kind, you see politicians try to politicize it, you see Democrats and a lot of folks in the media whose immediate solution is to try to restrict the constitutional rights of law abiding citizens.
What Cruz is really saying, when he says pap like this, is that he and his party would rather have a debate over the Constitution, the Second Amendment and law. As long as we go along with that, they win.
There has been no way forward on gun control, because the framing of the debate is usually deadlocked, as rights against rights – the right of citizens to safety and security, and the right of citizens to bear arms.
Indeed, after Sandy Hook, the Republicans broke that apparent deadlock. The best means of security, they said, was more guns. GOP legislators loosened previous firearms restrictions “for safety’s sake.” Of course, in reality, they made guns more accessible to criminals.
Put another way, all this “law-abiding citizens” verbiage is bait. They don’t care about the fact that Ramos was a “law-abiding citizen,” as was Buffalo killer Payton Gendron, before turning to mass murder.
Don’t take the bait.
The debate we should be having, if liberals would stop nit-picking, is about democracy and, within that context, equal treatment under law.
After the 2008 election, but especially after the 2012 election, the rightwing bloc of the Republican Party felt “betrayed” by democracy. After all, it created conditions by which voters elected a Black man.
In their eyes, the rule of law can’t include equal treatment, because “the rule of law” was never equal. It was racialized. In fact, “the rule of law,” for most of our country’s history, was “rule by white power.”
To the rightwingers, that’s the natural order of things. That’s what God intended for these United States. Matter of fact, rule by white power is the superstructure of this constitutional republic. Barack Obama’s election turned these orders of sociopolitical power upside down.
Suddenly, a Black man wasn’t solely subject to “the law.” Instead, he was enforcing it. Given that “the law” was never prosecuted equally but instead for the defense and protection of white power, you can see why rightwingers took the rule of law to mean “rule by a Black man.”
When democracy and the law are against you, what do you do?
You reach for a gun.
Violence is the goal
After Obama’s reelection, Republican governors and legislators began loosening previous firearms restrictions, allowing guns in churches, parks and other public spaces. The liberal reaction was befuddlement. After the bloodbath at Sandy Hook, what they were doing was insane!
Not to the rightwingers, though. After all, the sociopolitical orders of power that had once put them on top had been turned upside down. The oppressors had become the oppressed under this rule by a Black man. Expanding the range of guns was a way out of that predicament. To restore the natural order – the rule of white power - they first needed to bring down the current one, to knock out its foundation.
As a result, in the decade since the Sandy Hook massacre, this country has witnessed one mass murder after another. Liberals and gun-control advocates blamed the GOP, naturally. They also blamed the NRA and “gun lobby.” But they were missing two crucial elements.
One, that to be for gun control is to be against white power.
The right-wingers understand this perfectly.
We should, too.
Two, that every massacre, even those with no apparent motive, is a reaction to democracy’s challenge to the natural order of things.
Put this way, we can see them less as acts of senseless violence and more as acts of political violence. In this context, it doesn’t matter whether the shooter is conscious of the forces working on him. What matters is that violence is the logical end of rightwing politics.
Indeed, mass death works in the rightwingers’ favor whether it comes from bullets or a virus. When a population is scared enough, it will stop turning to democracy to solve problems. It will turn to the party that promises to restore “law and order,” that is, rule by white power.
They can’t win, though.
They know it.
The massacres are the proof.
If they thought they could win, the rightwingers would do what the Confederacy did. Amass an army and invade. As it is, they freelance the political violence, standing against attempts to control the distribution of guns while signaling to the GOP’s wildcat paramilitaries that the time to “take their country back” and fight for their “freedom.”
Instead of attacking the government, a battle they can’t win, these paramilitaries hit "soft targets" like schools, churches and grocery stores. When seen outside the context of political violence, the attacks seem random, meaningless. But inside, they look like an insurrection.
Because that’s what it is.
They understand, perfectly
There is a straight line between Obama’s election, Sandy Hook, the election of Donald Trump, the J6 insurrection and Tuesday's bloodbath in Uvalde. Sure Salvador Ramos wasn’t white. But he probably wanted to become white, because to be white is to be in power, to not be white is to be subject to power. What better way is there to become white than by purchasing a gun and committing an act of political violence for the purpose of restoring the natural order of things?
This setting is where the gun-control debate should be located. Not in the Second Amendment. Not the Constitution. Instead, in the larger context of democracy, law and white power. To be pro-gun control is to be anti-white power. Ted Cruz and the GOP understand, perfectly.
We should, too.