A U.S. congressman, Thomas Massie of Kentucky, tweeted a Christmas photo of himself with his family, smiling and posing with an array of guns. The tweet also asks Santa to “please bring ammo.”
This photo may have been considered outrageous at any time. But coming so soon after four teenagers were killed by a gun-wielding schoolmate of theirs in Oxford, Michigan, and seven others were injured, it has stoked that grief along with shock.
Thomas Massie represents a solidly Republican district, in the northeastern part Kentucky, including suburbs of nearby Cincinnati, Ohio. He was first elected to that seat almost 10 years ago, in a special election held after the unexpected retirement of his predecessor, Geoff Davis. The gun photo almost certainly will not impede Thomas Massie’s re-election in that district.
Indeed, if Massie faces a primary challenge next spring, it will come as it did two years ago from his right, from people who are more enthusiastic about former President Trump than he has been. This controversy could help immunize Massie against such a challenge.
Another Kentucky Congressman, John Yarmuth (D), condemned the tweet immediately. Yarmuth said in a tweet of his own: “I’m old enough to remember Republicans screaming that it was insensitive to try to protect people from gun violence after a tragedy.”
Dramatic mass shootings, in schools or shopping malls or places of worship, have become a fixture in American mass media, the idea that it is “insensitive” for gun control advocates to try to use such events for a “political agenda” in the days after they happen has likewise become a common part of the political dialog.
In this instance, as Yarmuth noted, the insensitivity shoe is on the other foot.
“I promise not everyone in Kentucky is an insensitive asshole,” Yarmuth added, in a separate tweet.
Manuel Oliver has also made his reaction clear. Oliver is the father of a young man who was killed in a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida.
Oliver and his wife are the founders of Save the Ref, an organization aimed at supporting student activists on gun control and other critical issues.
Oliver appeared on CNN Saturday and spoke about Thomas Massie’s gun photo. “Someone, elected leaders, like this one that think that, I don’t know, if they’re trying to be ironic, funny, or what but it’s the worst taste ever that you could handle on social media.”
CNN‘s anchor Jim Acosta then asked Oliver whether the Christmas gun photo caused additional pain to survivors such as himself.
Oliver responded, “No, the issue isn’t pаin. Becаuse of the wаy we hаndle it, аnd this [the gun photo] is most likely а messаge to those fаmilies in Michigаn.”
The Oxford High School shooting and the Parkland Florida shooting of three years ago were highlighted.
Fred Guttenberg tweeted a comment about Massie’s tweet. His daughter, Jaime, died at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting. His tweet embedded pictures of his late daughter and of her gravestone on Twitter.
“@RepThomasMassie, since we are sharing family photos, here are mine,” he said.
“One is the last photo that I ever took of Jaime, the other is where she is buried because of the Parkland school shooting.”
But Massie has also found defenders in the middle of the blowback. Candace Owens, long a voice for maximalist interpretation of the “right to bear arms,” came to Massie’s defense, tweeting that it is not clear to her how the “leftist[s] … worked out that the Michigan school shooting is @RepThomasMassie’s fault because he shared a picture of him and his family holding legal fire arms?”