House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) pointed to a lack of school prayer when talking about gun violence.
“We had AR-15s in the 1960s. We didn’t have those mass school shootings,” Scalise said during a press conference Wednesday.
“Now, I know it’s something that some people don’t want to talk about. We actually had prayer in school during those days,” Scalise continued. “We had other things going on in our society where we took a different approach to our young kids. And let’s look at that. These are tough conversations we shouldn’t be having that we’re not having about why we’re seeing more young kids go astray.”
The main Republican response to the Uvalde, Texas shooting centers on boosting school security. Rep. Richard Hudson (N.C.), the House Republican Conference secretary, is leading a bill to fund more school resource officers, mental health counselors and emergency preparedness training. Other proposals focus on physical security improvements.
But Scalise is not alone among Republicans in turning the focus to socially conservative values by calling for the increased presence of religion in schools in order to curb gun violence.
“Our children are suffering and we face a mental health crisis in our country because the radical left has spent decades removing God from our school and our society,” Rep. Mary Miller (R-Ill.) said during a Second Amendment Caucus press conference on Wednesday.
The focus on religion and family comes as Democratic members of Congress aim to restrict the weapons used in recent mass shootings — high-capacity semi-automatic rifles — through age limit increases, a high-capacity magazine ban, background check expansion or other measures.
“Young men need fathers at home and so do our daughters. Our country must be guided by our Judeo-Christian faith,” Miller said. “The Second Amendment Caucus will continue to fight to defend our Second Amendment rights, and we will continue to speak out about what really ails our country. We need to go back to God, people.”
Several other Republicans have pointed to absent fathers as being a connection to mass shooters.
In a speech at the National Rifle Association days after the Uvalde massacre, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) pointed to “broken families, absent fathers, declining church attendance” as potential contributing factors in the massacres.
“Tragedies like the events of this week are a mirror forcing us to ask hard questions, demanding that we see where our culture is failing,” Cruz said, also mentioning “social media bullying, violent online content, desensitizing the act of murder in video games, chronic isolation, prescription drug and opioid abuse, and their collective effects on the psyche of young Americans”
In a recent Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) wondered if “fatherlessness” is a common thread in mass shooters.
“Why is our culture suddenly producing so many young men who want to murder innocent people?” Lee said. “It raises questions like, you know, could things like fatherlessness, the breakdown of families, isolation from civil society or the glorification of violence be contributing factors?”
The father of 18-year-old Uvalde gunman Salvador Ramos told The Daily Beast that he had not been in touch with him lately. But the 18-year-old suspect in the May Buffalo, N.Y., grocery store shooting, who allegedly targeted Black people and killed 10, has parents who are still married, according to USA Today.
Republicans have also brought up more modern socially conservative stances when talking about mass shootings and mental health.
When talking about problems with mental illness, Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) appeared to reference giving gender-affirming care to transgender children.
“Let them know that they are valued, and when there are signs of mental instability not to encourage that,” Boebert said Wednesday. “If my 9-year-old suddenly tells me that he’s a mermaid, I think that we need to have at least a conversation rather than letting him live with the rest of his days and a swimming pool with his feet tied together.”