House Speaker Mike Johnson Blames Mass Shootings on “the Human Heart,” in Case You Were Thinking the GOP Might Actually Do Something About Guns

On Wednesday night, at least 18 people were killed when a gunman opened fire at a bowling alley and bar in Lewiston, Maine. According to a database maintained by the Associated Press and USA Today, the tragedy marked the United State’s 36th mass killing—when four or more people, not including the perpetrator, have been killed—in 2023, and was by far its deadliest. Given the regularly occurring nature of these horrific incidents, you might be wondering if there was any hope that Republicans would finally be ready to pull their heads out of their asses and support meaningful gun control legislation, like the kind that was in place between 1994 and 2004. And while you could have guessed, given their track record, that the answer was a big, resounding no—and maybe even a “Have you met a Republican lately?”—new House Speaker Mike Johnson’s comments on the matter have made it more than a little clear that Republicans don’t care how many people die by gun violence in the US every year and that they probably never will.

In an interview with Sean Hannity that aired on Thursday night, Johnson was asked by the Fox News host what his “answer” to “the left” demanding Congress do something about the epidemic of mass shootings in this country, following the tragedy that occurred this week in Maine. His answer? That mass shootings have nothing to do with guns. “At the end of the day,” Johnson insisted, “the problem is the human heart, it’s not guns, it’s not the weapons. At the end of the day, we have to protect the right of the citizens to protect themselves, and that’s the Second Amendment, and that’s why our party stands so strongly for that.” Pressed by Hannity on whether there was “any specific gun law” he would seriously consider, Johnson doubled down on the absurd claim that guns aren’t the problem, saying, “There will be lots of discussion, as there are after these heartbreaking tragedies.… In Europe and in other places, they use vehicles to mow down crowds at parades—where they’ve done that here at the United States. It’s not the weapon, it’s the underlying problem. I believe we have to address the root problems of these things, and mental health, obviously, as in this case, is a big issue, and we’ve got to seriously address that.”

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Republicans, of course, have a long history of blaming literally anything but guns for gun violence—a list that includes but is not limited to abortion, women in the workplace, vaccines, and zombies. (Johnson himself has blamed abortion and the teaching of evolution on mass shootings.)

In response to Johnson’s most recent claim, a spokesman for the Joe Biden White House told Vanity Fair: “We absolutely reject the offensive accusation that gun crime is uniquely high in the United States because of Americans’ ‘hearts.’ Gun crime is uniquely high in the United States because congressional Republicans have spent decades choosing the gun industry’s lobbyists over the lives of innocent Americans. Gun violence is now the main reason that American children’s hearts stop beating. Not cancer, not car accidents—gun violence.”

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Maine senators Susan Collins and Angus King said they support gun control measures based on “functionality” rather than a full ban on assault weapons. 

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