Tennessee Rep. Burchett Says Congress Isn’t “Going to Do Anything” About School Shootings

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Despite being the ones who want guns to be widely available, conservatives and right-wingers have had an absolute field day responding to the March 27th shooting at a Nashville elementary school that killed six. They’re piling onto premature assertions about the shooter’s identity, with everyone from commentators to congresspeople getting in on it. But one Tennessee congressperson had oddly brutal things to say about the event that resulted in the death of three children – namely, he planned to do nothing about it. 

In a viral tweet thread, Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN) is seen speaking to the media about his plans, or lack thereof, for addressing school shootings. NBC News reports this was the third school shooting of 2023. “We’re not going to fix it,” he declared, claiming, “Criminals are going to be criminals” and weirdly citing his dad’s experience as a veteran of WWII as an explanation. (As Stephen Colbert responded last night, “Counterpoint: Elementary school is not supposed to be like World War II.”) 

According to the Guardian, Burchett has received an A rating from the NRA’S PAC because of his opposition to banning semiautomatic weapons. He also signed onto an amicus brief supporting the overturning of the 2020 presidential election.

“I don’t think you’re going to stop the gun violence. I think you’ve got to change people’s hearts,” Burchett (again, a Congressional representative for, as the Onion continuously asserts, the Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens) said. “As a Christian, as we talk about in the church,” he continued, “I’ve said this many times, I think we really need a revival in this country.” Wow, thoughts and prayers. Okay, sure. Anyways!

Things that are, apparently, within Burchett’s purview: backing anti-drag legislation that is so severe it’s making trans people worry about going outside, which was signed in alongside a gender-affirming care ban for minors (since obviously, that’s more threatening to kids than being killed by guns at school).

When asked what he would do to protect kids like his daughter (a reminder the three children killed in Monday’s shooting were all nine years old), he shrugged, and replied, “Well, we homeschool her.” This response was maddening to me, essentially saying “best of luck” to what is a fundamentally systemic problem created by Congress that Burchett is able to do something about. In terms of homeschooling, he’s just opting out. Teen Vogue’s December 2022 issue, in honor of the many we’ve lost to school shootings, explored the perspectives of young people, who are clear that it’s one of the most worrisome issues of their adolescent years

This also overlooks how school shootings impact more than just students. It’s a risk for everyone who works in a school, like the three staff members killed on Monday, who put their lives on the line to protect the children. Maybe you can pull your kids out of school, but the teachers in my family were among the first I knew to have to return to the classroom during the pandemic. And at least one of the teachers I know had their campus evacuated in the last year after after a gun was found on school grounds.

But the whole “homeschooling” thing, coming from someone with a track record like Burchett, sounds like a conservative dog whistle. What Harvard’s Elizabeth Bartholet calls the “unregulated regime” of homeschooling is a core part of the current “fight” for “parental rights,” a euphemism for restricting young people’s autonomy with their bodies. Last June, the Washington Post reported that “conservative Christian homeschool advocates” are “laying a foundation for the current wave of parental rights-related policies” while “taking an active role in making these policies law.” States like New Hampshire, Florida, and Virginia are currently considering or passing proposals inspired or influenced by the concept.

Burchett’s insensitive comments kicked off a flurry of media coverage, which I guess is more important to him than using any of his agency as a member of Congress. As we continue to learn more about the Covenant School shooting, we can safely assume that Burchett – by his own words – won’t be a part of any solutions.

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