Ex-GOP Chair Slams 'Unserious' Republican Response to Mass Shootings

Michael Steele, former Republican National Committee (RNC) chair, criticized the GOP's response to mass shootings on Sunday, describing it as "unserious."

A mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday left 19 students and two educators dead. In the wake of the horrific violence, Democrats and some Republican lawmakers have called for gun reform legislation in an effort to prevent future tragedies. Meanwhile, strong Second Amendment supporting members of the GOP have largely blamed a mental health crisis and poor moral values in the nation, pushing back against proposals for stricter gun laws.

In an interview with MSNBC's The Sunday Show with Jonathan Capehart, Steele was pressed by the host on why Republicans "talk around the issue." Capehart contended that GOP lawmakers should agree that "an 18-year-old shouldn't have a weapon of war."

"The party has become integrated into the business of guns and gun ownership. It is about the votes and the cash that are garnered from that affirmative defense of all things NRA [National Rifle Association]," Steele, who chaired the RNC for two years from 2009 to 2011, responded.

Michael Steele
Former Republican National Committee (RNC) chair Michael Steele knocked the GOP response to mass shootings during a Sunday interview with MSNBC. Above, Steele (left) speaks with then Democratic National Committee (DNC) chair Tom Perez (right) ahead of the first Democratic presidential primary debate for the 2020 election on June 26, 2019 in Miami. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Proponents of stricter gun laws often target the NRA—the most prominent gun rights advocacy group—and its influence on politics.

"The Republicans on this issue are unserious," Steele, a former lieutenant governor for Maryland, continued. "They're not going to do anything to change the status quo," he said, dismissing ongoing talks on possible gun reform legislation touted by Republican leaders in Congress. Steele has repeatedly criticized GOP officials and lawmakers in the era of former President Donald Trump.

Continuing, he said the GOP-supported talks are not a "legitimate effort to come to some sort of resolution." The former RNC chair contended that GOP leaders were just "stalling," saying that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, should just put gun reform legislation bills on the floor for a vote despite the so-called "negotiation."

Representative Adam Kinzinger, an Illinois Republican, knocked fellow GOP lawmakers response to the mass shooting as well in a Sunday interview with CNN's State of the Union.

"What you're seeing right now is all these politicians that are scared to death to talk about the gun issue. They know that this is an issue, but they're scared to talk about it so they launch into this thing about mental health," Kinzinger, who is not seeking reelection and has become highly critical of Republican leaders aligned with Trump, said.

"If we think that just hardening schools—basically turning schools into military camps is going to be the answer. Even if it does work, which it won't. But even if it does, that isn't the type of country I want to live in," the GOP congressman added.

Meanwhile, Representative Mo Brooks, an Alabama Republican, pushed back against stricter gun laws during an interview with Fox News Sunday. Brooks blamed mental health issues and what he described as a "decline in moral values, the decline in respect for human life." The GOP lawmaker explained that he and his classmates often brought guns used for hunting to school as teenagers several decades ago, but this did not lead to mass shootings like we see today.

As Steele referenced in his comments to MSNBC, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, tasked Senator John Corny, a Texas Republican, with leading negotiations with Democrats about a possible compromise. McConnell told reporters he was "hopeful" a bipartisan solution could be achieved.

Newsweek reached out to the RNC for comment.