Just days after a shooter killed three children and three staff members at a Christian school in Nashville, Representative Jamaal Bowman of New York and Representative Thomas Massie of Kentucky got into a heated shouting match over gun control Wednesday outside the House chamber in the Capitol building.
Bowman, a progressive who was a school principal for a decade, was telling reporters that Republicans are “gutless” and “cowards” for not supporting tougher gun restrictions despite a litany of mass shootings.
“They’re all cowards. They won’t do anything to save the lives of our children at all. Cowards. Pressure them. Force them to respond to the question: ‘Why the hell won’t you do anything to save American’s children?’ ” Bowman said, his voice rising as he stood in the hallway, surrounded by congressional staff and reporters. “And let them explain that all the way up to Election Day in 2024. They’re freaking cowards. They’re gutless.”
It was then that Massie, a Republican with strong ties to Massachusetts, walked up and confronted Bowman.
“What are you talking about?” asked Massie, who attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and later founded the company SensAble Technologies in the area, according to his biography. He began pointing his finger at Bowman, who was quick to respond.
“I’m talking about gun violence,” Bowman said.
Massie, who sparked outrage after he posted a Christmas photo of his family grinning while brandishing firearms days after the school shooting at Oxford High School in Michigan in 2021, then escalated the discussion.
“Did you know there’s never been a school shooting in a school that allows teachers to carry?” Massie told Bowman. (This claim could not be independently verified, but incidents have been reported of mishandled guns at schools in the past several years, according to an analysis by the Giffords Law Center.)
“Carry guns? More guns leads to more death,” Bowman responded as the argument intensified. “Look at the data. You’re not looking at any data.”
At one point, Massie appeared to hold back laughter as Bowman argued for stronger gun control laws.
“States that have open carry laws have more death,” Bowman said. He repeated the statement as Massie continued to push back. “Are you listening to what I’m saying?”
Open carry laws allow people to carry visible guns in public.
When Massie told him to “calm down,” Bowman became visibly upset.
“Calm down? Children are dying. Nine-year-old children,” Bowman said. “The solution is not arming teachers.”
The impromptu dispute is emblematic of how deeply divided Republicans and Democrats are on gun control as mass shootings continue to traumatize the country. President Biden, who once led efforts to pass the now-expired assault weapons ban and has since signed a number of executive orders on guns, said Tuesday that he “can’t do anything except plead with Congress to act.”
After the public clash, which has gained widespread attention online, Bowman continued his call for gun regulations and again admonished Republicans.
“Republicans won’t do [expletive] when it comes to gun violence, but try to tell me to calm down,” he posted on Twitter Wednesday. “NO. We can’t calm down. People are dying everyday while we wait.”
The angry exchange is just one example this week of Republicans coming under scrutiny for their stance on gun control.
Representative Andrew Ogles, who represents the Nashville district where The Covenant School is located, received swift condemnation after a gun-toting Christmas photo of Ogles and his family from 2021 circulated on social media. He later told reporters that he has no regrets about the picture. Meanwhile, Representative Tim Burchett of Tennessee told a reporter on the steps of the Capitol that “we’re not gonna fix” the issue of mass shootings. And Representative Mike Rounds of South Dakota said during an appearance on CNN Wednesday that Congress has “gone about as far as we’re going to with gun control.”
Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy also refused to speak with reporters about the shooting in Nashville.
“We can talk about new movies. We can talk about your lives. We can talk about what you’re doing for Easter. Anything else,” he said. “I have to go to work right now.”
Watch the exchange between Bowman and Massie here: