Around the country there is no shortage of elected gun nuts gun-nutting for the camera. Rep. Majorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and many others have demonstrated an inability to resist the urge to strut with weapons.
What these extremists fail to grasp is how weak such posing makes them appear. People who are confident in their strength don’t need to peacock. An elected official posing with a weapon is a micro version of a military parade — if you’re tempted to be impressed when a member of Congress showboats with a firearm, just think of Kim Jong-Un.
But as silly as these leaders make themselves look, the message they send is dangerous. When elected officials extol instruments of death, they reinforce strains of violence in the country’s political culture and encourage lethal aggression. It’s easy for most Americans when they see gun cosplay from their leaders to laugh it off as the antics of children. But disturbed and aggrieved viewers will derive inspiration from such displays, with bloodshed too readily the result. It’s still unclear what motivated the shooter on Monday, but initial indications are that he espoused far-right political hatred, and it’s reasonable to suppose that right-wing celebration of firearms helped clear space for his murderous rampage.
If you feel you need it for personal protection, go ahead and carry a gun. If spraying bullets into a target makes you feel tough, no one’s stopping you. But if you prefer to live in a safe community, and want to appear strong — not playground strong, but actually strong — leave the camera at home.