The timing wasn’t great but, then, it never is in a country where mass shootings are seemingly incessant.
Less than 24 hours later, Americans would be reminded why the incident in Denmark was not really comparable to gun violence in this country. A shooter opened fire at a Fourth of July parade in a suburb of Chicago, killing six people and wounding more than two dozen. It was the 15th incident this year in which at least four people have been shot and killed in a single incident, according to the Gun Violence Archive’s data.
Nearly 100 people have died in those incidents — more gun deaths from one cause than Denmark has seen in total in nearly two decades. Americans are about 11 times as likely as Danes to be killed by a gun.
Boebert’s tweet should be read in the appropriate political context. It is, of course, less a tweet about preventive measures than about how America should approach gun legislation. She is starting from a position of posturing in defense of gun ownership, a motivating issue for many Republicans, and working backward to rationalize it.
She’s not entirely wrong, of course. A nation awash with hundreds of millions of firearms, including perhaps 20 million AR-15-style rifles, is not suddenly going to see gun violence evaporate. But that’s different from approaching the question fatalistically, as a fifth of Americans and more than a quarter of Republicans do, according to recent polling: treating mass shootings as simply something that happen regardless of legislation.
The important context to Boebert’s near-triumphant tweet (and those of other conservative American politicians) is how the political right approaches another criminal act: voter fraud.
On Jan. 6, 2021, Boebert gave her first speech as a newly elected member of Congress. It came as legislators were considering the electoral votes submitted by states in the 2020 presidential election; it came, in fact, as rioters supporting Donald Trump had already pushed past police outside the Capitol and were about to enter the building itself.
In her speech, Boebert sided with the cause motivating those rioters.
“It is my duty under the U.S. Constitution to object to the counting of the electoral votes of the state of Arizona,” she said. “The members who stand here today and accept the results of this concentrated, coordinated, partisan effort by Democrats, where every fraudulent vote cancels out the vote of an honest American, has sided with the extremist left.”
The election in Arizona, of course, was not demonstrably affected by fraudulent voting to any significant degree. The 18 months since Boebert’s speech have included numerous efforts to undercut the results there and in other states by those loyal to Trump, without success. Boebert was again posturing about Trump in an effort to appeal to his base, and working backward to object to the results in Arizona as a way to do so.
She’s tweeted about voter fraud any number of times — in fact, repeatedly insisting both that fraud is a dire threat and that the 2020 election suffered from it. But that articulation offered on Jan. 6 was revealing. It isn’t novel to suggest that fraudulent votes “cancel” those of legal voters; it often comes up in these debates. What it suggests, though, is that any illegal vote must be stamped out.
It is, in other words, an absolutist position — one that Boebert explicitly rejects when the issue is mass murder.
It is obvious to the point of dullness that we should try to stop any illegal voting and any murders. It should similarly be obvious that one of those things is worse than the other.
What may be less obvious is the scale at which either occurs. An analysis of in-person voter fraud completed in 2014 found 241 possibly fraudulent ballots cast in a pool of more than 1 billion votes over the previous 14 years. In the 2020 election, more than 160 million votes were cast, including 25.6 million in six swing states won by President Biden. By the end of last year, the Associated Press had tallied fewer than 500 possibly suspect votes in those states. Possibly! But that’s a rate of 1.8 suspect votes per 100,000 cast in those states.
So far in 2022, more than 10,000 gun homicides have been tallied in the United States. That’s a rate of three killings per 100,000 Americans. A higher incidence rate — and one that has a dire, tangible effect incomparable to suspect votes that would not have been determinative in any of the six states’ elections.
It’s also a rate that’s 128 times the rate of fraud seen in that 2014 study. In that study, the rate of fraud was slightly lower than the number of Americans killed just in mass shooting events so far this year — the focus of Boebert’s tweet, though she has at times been more expansive.
BREAKING: Criminals will still break gun laws.— Lauren Boebert (@laurenboebert) April 11, 2022
Biden’s new “rules” will only disarm law-abiding citizens.
Again, could one wave a magic wand to eliminate any violations of voter-fraud and homicide statutes, no rational person would refuse to wave the wand. But what if you could wave the wand only once, to eliminate one set of violations? If you were going to be an absolutist demanding robust efforts to eliminate one of these crimes entirely, which would you pick?