In the aftermath of a mass shooting in Maine that left at least 18 dead and a dozen injured — with the suspected killer still at large — the usual prescriptions for America’s epidemic of gun violence have been rolled out once more. Some say we should make firearms harder to obtain. Others would prefer we do literally anything else, and, failing that, nothing at all.
Indeed, because the political right is beholden to Second Amendment absolutists who regard even the hint of increased gun regulation as an attack on the Constitution, they are always in the awkward positions of suggesting other, baffling ways to theoretically prevent another AR-15 massacre. (Perhaps you remember how some Republicans responded to the Uvalde shooting last year, in which 19 elementary school students and two teachers were killed, by proposing fewer, reinforced doors for schools.) In the case of the Lewiston, Maine, spree murders, conservatives can’t exactly fall back on the familiar logic that the mythical “good guy with a gun” could’ve stopped the carnage, because nearly half of the state’s adults own a gun, and open and concealed carry are legal without a permit. So, talking with presidential candidate Nikki Haley on his show last night, Fox News host Sean Hannity pivoted to an alternate form of protection: bare fists.
Once he’d complained that shootings are routinely “politicized” — something Fox surely has nothing to do with — Hannity turned the threat of being gunned down in a public space into an issue of personal responsibility. “I always ask the question, when something like this happens, what is your plan? What do you do?” he said. “I have a personal security plan. I train in mixed martial arts.”
Hannity on mass shooting: What is your plan? What do you do? I have a personal security plan. I train in mixed martial arts. pic.twitter.com/Of0l1bpAGL
— Acyn (@Acyn) October 26, 2023
Good luck finding a martial arts instructor who thinks it’s a good defense against a semi-automatic rifle. Even the MMA blogs are making fun of Hannity for this. But his absurd comment reaffirms the core delusion of gun-rights advocates who resist any common-sense reform of firearm laws: that if only these horrific attacks unfolded in just the right circumstances, with a perfectly prepared hero in the vicinity, they wouldn’t add up to the deadly pattern we recognize as an ongoing national crisis. Again and again, this hopeful, unrealized hypothetical is presented as a buffer against the tragic and maddening reality.
And while those who fantasize themselves in action as Neo from The Matrix are more likely to end up looking like Mac from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, invoking the razor-thin possibility of averting an act of deadly domestic terror with jiu-jitsu is a rhetorical end in itself. Rather than contend with what’s actually happening in this country, you can say, “What if it wasn’t happening?” That Hannity would imply that universal proficiency in hand-to-hand combat might make the difference goes to show that right-wingers can adjust this dodge for any context, as disinformation researcher @dappergander points out:
normally they say 'if only people carried guns this wouldn't happen'
since the Lewiston area has no shortage of citizens who legally carry, we're moving to 'if only people knew kung fu this wouldn't happen' https://t.co/Fiok2UqiTn
— Feminist Proper Gander (@dappergander) October 26, 2023
Of course, we’re more likely to see that rumored cage match between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg before Hannity ever demonstrates his karate kicks on camera. His message is clear enough without that: If you are randomly executed by a gunman, that’s your problem, and you should have been ready to take him on, armed or not. The cruel irony of this take is how it demands you imagine yourself with superpowers while presuming the government — which is actually in a position to mitigate gun violence on a societal scale — is somehow helpless to act.
And if you believe that, you may start to accept that regular shootings are nothing more than the cost of freedom.
More from Rolling Stone
Best of Rolling Stone