On Sunday, Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) denounced the recent push for anti-gun violence measures, blaming hatchets, hammers, video games, and “psychotropic drugs” for the nation’s homicide rate. Appearing on CNN’s State of the Union, Blackburn claimed that the conversation after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre should focus on mental health instead of guns, because disturbed individuals could use “a hammer, a hatchet, a car”:
BLACKBURN: We need to do a couple of things. Number one is to drill down on the mental health issue. Number two is to look at the psychiatric and psychotropic drugs, because that is many times linked to the individuals who carry out these crimes. They are also wanting to make certain that we begin to get in behind these video games. [...] The problem is it could be a hammer, a hatchet, a car.
In the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, Republicans and pro-gun advocates have continued to insist that gun safety measures are not only useless but infringing on gun owners’ rights. A week after the shooting, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre held a controversial press conference in which he raged against gun safety and tried to divert attention to video games, corporate media, school security and hurricanes. Conservatives have taken up the NRA’s message; Blackburn’s colleague Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) used the same rationale to claim that any assault weapons ban would have to include hammers and machetes.
America’s gun homicide rate is 19.5 times higher than comparable nations. The FBI estimates that 8,775 people were killed by guns in 2010 — more than an order of magnitude higher than the 540 people killed with blunt objects. Furthermore, despite the gun lobby’s scapegoating of mentally ill individuals, people with mental health problems are not statistically more likely to be violent than the average person.