Blaming everyone but the shooter

By Elijah Gullett

It didn’t take long for partisans to start speculating after the horrific shooting at Christian Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee. And the speculation ramped up significantly when it was revealed the shooter was transgender. Professional journalists and social media users on both the right and left have wasted no time trying to explain why their political opponents are responsible for this shooting – blaming everyone but the shooter.   

But a school shooting is no time for pundits to take opportunistic jabs at their opposition. Responsible reporters would shift the focus to the victims, their families, and the heroes in this story. That’s not what we got.

On the left, a familiar narrative has continued, blaming Republicans for their inaction on gun violence and opposition to Democrats’s common sense gun control policies. California Governor Gavin Newsom called out Senator Martha Blackburn of Tennessee for voting against gun control legislation in the Senate, suggesting that she was in the pocket of the NRA. North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper villainized his political opponents, tweeting that Republicans want to “make it easier for dangerous people to buy guns and take them on some school grounds.” Like President Biden said a few weeks ago when discussing the American Care Act, saving lives “doesn’t matter much to our Republican friends.”

This type of rhetoric is typical in the aftermath of mass shootings in America, but the shooter’s transgender identity brought out a new angle. 

The Trans Resistance Network described the event as two tragedies: the shooting and the fact that the transgender shooter saw “no other effective way to be seen.” Despite that the shooter’s motives are still unknown, they stated that “hate has consequences,” implying the shooting was a reaction to new Tennessee legislation that banned gender transition for minors and “all-ages” drag shows. 

The right-wing media has also focused on the shooter’s transgender identity. Popular right-wing journalist Benny Johnson claimed that transgenderism was radicalizing people into terrorism, citing three other shootings where the shooters claimed to be transgender. Matt Walsh, a popular Daily Wire host, said that the transgender movement was the “greatest evil” America faces, implying that the transgender movement is to blame for the tragedy. Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene speculated whether the shooter’s (unconfirmed) use of hormone replacement therapy was to blame for the shooting. And other popular online conservative figures have openly called for banning transgender people from owning guns.

But here’s the truth. The shooter chose to buy guns with the intent to harm. The shooter chose to enter a school and kill innocent children. The shooter – transgender or not, liberal or not, gun owner or not – was an individual. An evil individual, and the blame for this horrible act falls squarely on them. No one else. 

Trying to blame others is not only inaccurate, it reduces the moral culpability of the shooter. 

Mass tragedies like this should inspire people to reach across the aisle and see each other’s humanity. Instead, media talking heads and pundits of all stripes have chosen to use this awful event to target their political opponents. They’re pretending to take the moral high ground over their political enemies instead of blaming the shooter for this tragedy. 

Politicizing a mass tragedy is detestable, and it doesn’t make our schools any safer, nor does it prevent anyone else from becoming a school shooter. We should not waste hours of precious time fighting over the shooter’s still unknown motives, or our political opponents’ supposed moral depravity. Instead, we should be focused on the victims and their families, as well as the heroic officers who prevented further catastrophe. Certainly, we should consider how we can prevent things like this from happening again, but solutions aren’t going to come from cruel tweets and talking heads. 

Ultimately, only the shooter can be blamed for what happened at Covenant Christian School, everything else is a distraction from the victims of this nightmare. 

Elijah Gullett is a writer and commentator for Young Voices. His work focuses on energy, environment, housing, and building an economy of abundance.