The worship of weapons

Sacrificing children so that anyone can own an AR-15

A woman looks up and prays at the Memorial held at The Covenant School after the shooting.
(Image credit: Johnnie Izquierdo for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The shooter blasted through the glass doors of the Covenant School with an assault rifle and stepped past the broken glass. Dressed in military camo and armed with three guns, Audrey Hale, 28, began hunting the hallways for little boys and girls, swinging the semiautomatic rifle in a circle like a soldier searching for the enemy. Like nearly all mass shooters, Hale — who apparently identified as ­transgender — was declaring war on a world that had been indifferent to the killer's suffering. To inflict maximum casualties, the shooter chose ­assault-style weapons, which rapidly fire high-­velocity bullets that inflict horrific wounds. Over the past decade, nearly 60 percent of the deadliest mass shootings have been carried out with assault rifles. Not only do they run up the body count like a video game, AR-15s fulfill a mass shooter's vengeful fantasies of war in a way a simple handgun does not.

Last year, when dozens of cops arrived at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, their fear of a gunman's assault rifle kept them from entering the classroom where he was methodically executing 19 children and two teachers. "AR. He has a battle rifle," one cop told another. Too much "firepower," another later explained. In Nashville, two heroic cops confronted and killed the ­shooter — too late to save two 9-year-old girls, a 9-year-old boy, and three adult staff members who lay dead of grievous bullet wounds. Their secondary cause of death was our country's fetishization of deadly weapons, which will not yield to commonsense regulation no matter how many schoolchildren or adults are slaughtered. Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Ogles, who represents parts of Nashville, sent out a Christmas card photo in 2021 in which he, his wife, and two children proudly brandished their assault rifles next to their festive tree. In response to this week's carnage, Ogles said he would send the victims' shattered families the empty consolation of his "thoughts and prayers." Only in America.

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William Falk

William Falk is editor-in-chief of The Week, and has held that role since the magazine's first issue in 2001. He has previously been a reporter, columnist, and editor at the Gannett Westchester Newspapers and at Newsday, where he was part of two reporting teams that won Pulitzer Prizes.