Contradictions and Arguments from a Pro-Gun Politician
Examining arguments about gun rights from Marjorie Taylor Greene.
Posted Jan 27, 2021
Earlier this week Marjorie Taylor Greene, a U.S. Representative from Georgia, made several false statements related to gun violence and gun rights. On a D.C. sidewalk, Greene is recorded following David Hogg, a survivor of the Parkland high school shooting and current activist in the fight to reduce gun violence, asking him questions and making several claims. Rep. Greene is in some hot water for other reasons today, but my focus will be on the flawed arguments and claims that she makes related to guns and gun rights. These bad arguments and false claims are widely repeated, but not often examined in sufficient detail.
In this video, Greene criticizes Hogg for supporting "red flag" laws, and then claims that "If school zones were protected by security guards with guns, there would be no mass shootings at schools. You know that?" She goes on to say that "the best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun." I've addressed such claims about good guys with guns here and in my recent book, God and Guns in America.
But what about the first claim, that armed security guards would prevent all mass shootings at schools? Well, Greene refutes the claim herself just a few seconds later. She tells Hogg that if the Parkland High School armed resource officer had done his job, then no one in the school would have been killed. To make it clear, Greene first argues that armed security guards at schools will eliminate mass school shootings, but then alludes to an example of a mass school shooting in which 17 people were killed — a shooting where an armed resource officer was present. To be sure, the officer in question didn't do his job. But that's precisely my point. If we rely solely upon armed resource officers to reduce or eliminate school shootings, we already know that won't do the job. More must be done if we want to protect children and others.
Greene poses another question to Hogg: "Why are you supporting red flag gun laws that attack our Second Amendment rights?" There is a lot to say here, but here are two important responses.
First, it is important to see that such laws, called extreme risk protection orders, do not attack Second Amendment rights. In fact, they are fully consistent with the scope of those rights. In the 2008 Supreme Court case District of Columbia vs. Heller, the Court found that there is an individual right to own a gun. In that finding, the court also claimed that reasonable limits can be placed on that right:
"Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited...nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings."
The limits that extreme risk protection orders put into place are reasonable. They are also consistent with the law of the land, including the Second Amendment. They save lives. They don't attack anyone's Second Amendment rights. They recognize that not all are responsible enough to exercise those rights, just as the Supreme Court recognized in the Heller case.
Second, these laws have been shown to be effective. There is no easy, one-size-fits-all fix to gun violence in America, but a federal "red flag" law is an important piece of the puzzle. It would protect the rights of responsible gun owners, while also reducing gun violence. The state of Maryland is one of many states that has implemented a “red flag” gun safety law. It initially appears to be very effective. This law allows police officers, family members, or health care professionals to make a legal request that firearms be temporarily removed from potentially dangerous individuals by the courts. In roughly half of the cases, a final order was issued. This means that the guns aren't immediately returned to their owners, who can be banned from purchasing or owning a gun for one year. In cases where there is a mental health issue, and the individual receives treatment or medication, the guns are returned. According to Montgomery County Sheriff Darren Popkin, “These orders are not only being issued appropriately; they are saving lives.” Five of the first 302 requests under the new law involved possible school shootings. A federal firearm extreme risk protection order system similar to Maryland’s can and should be created.
Greene finally claims that Hogg "has nothing to say because there isn't really anything to say." Here, I've said a few things on his behalf. More importantly, I've offered some evidence in support of the work that we can do to reduce gun violence in America.
In 2020, there were 43,487 deaths due to gun violence in the United States. It doesn't have to be this way. We can protect the rights of responsible gun owners and reduce the daily suffering and death due to gun violence.
For more on these issues, there is excellent research available at the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research.