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MAGA Extremism in Schools: Republican-Led States Are Banning Books, Not Guns
Fact Sheet

MAGA Extremism in Schools: Republican-Led States Are Banning Books, Not Guns

In 2022, Democratic-led states focused on passing laws to keep kids safe in schools, while Republican-led states focused on banning books.

Photo shows gun safety advocates at a march holding a sign that reads
Gun safety advocates participate in the March for Our Lives rally in Orlando, Florida, June 2022. (Getty/Paul Hennessy/Anadolu Agency)

As students return to schools across the country, many are entering classrooms in states where it is now easier to carry a gun than it was earlier in the year. In 2022 alone, five states with Republican leadership—Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, New Hampshire, and Ohio—passed laws to eliminate firearm permitting requirements, and across the country, Republican-led states have enacted more than 20 bills to weaken gun laws this year.

Republican-led states have enacted more than 20 bills to weaken gun laws this year.

Weak gun laws are driving increases in violent crime, and children and teenagers are often the most vulnerable. In 2020, the 10 states with the highest rates of gun deaths among children and teenagers all received an “F” grade for their weak gun laws, according to the latest scorecard from Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. The same year, the rate of gun homicides among children and teenagers rose by 40 percent, making guns the No. 1 killer of children in America.

Republicans have made it easier for shooters to access guns, but they’ve made it harder for students to access books. Since fall 2021, Republican-led states have banned more than 1,000 books in schools, including through legislation in Florida, Missouri, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Utah. In Missouri, one of the few Republican-led states with a legislature open at the time of the Uvalde shooting, lawmakers took no action on gun crime but did manage to ban Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. While countless studies show stronger gun laws keep kids safe, no study has established a causal link between student safety and book banning.

Since fall 2021, Republican-led states have banned more than 1,000 books in schools.

While Republicans passed laws that exacerbate gun crime, Democratic-led states have taken steps to lower gun violence and keep communities safe. In the wake of tragic mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York, Democratic-led states passed more than 30 bills to reduce gun crime.

When it comes to school safety, Republicans have taken action to prevent kids from reading books but to increase access to guns in their states, while Democrats have acted to protect children from gun violence in their schools.

Republican-led states banned more than 1,000 books in schools in recent months

According to data collected by PEN America, Republican-led states banned more than 1,000 books from fall 2021 through March of 2022. There were 27 school shootings across the country during the same period.

  • All book ban legislation passed in 2022 occurred in Republican-led states: Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Utah.
  • In Missouri—one of the few Republican-led states with a legislature in session at the time of the Uvalde shooting—lawmakers refused to take any action on the issue of gun crime. They did find time to ban literature classics such as Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye.

GOP-led states enacted more than 20 bills to weaken gun laws in 2022

This year alone, Republican-led states have enacted more than 20 bills to weaken gun laws, including in Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming:

  • Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, and Ohio, all passed bills that will allow anyone to carry a firearm in public without getting a license or any training from the state.
  • In New Hampshire, Republican legislators made it more difficult for law enforcement to work in collaboration with federal agencies to solve gun crimes.

MAGA Republicans nationwide are targeting their efforts to increase guns in schools

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Republicans have introduced more than 100 pieces of legislation to increase the presence of guns in schools since the Parkland, Florida, shooting:

  • In Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine (R) responded to the Uvalde shooting by signing into law legislation allowing teachers to carry guns in classrooms after receiving just 24 hours of training.
  • In Arizona, the Republican-led state House of Representatives passed a bill to require all children in sixth through 12th grade to take a National Rifle Association (NRA) gun safety course in school.
  • In Tennessee, the Republican-led state House of Representatives passed a bill supported by the gun lobby to lower the age for people to own a handgun to 18, giving high schoolers the ability to legally possess guns.
  • In Arkansas, Republican-led school districts are implementing policies to increase guns in schools, including a recommended goal to ensure an armed presence on every campus at all times.
  • In North Carolina, one Republican-led school district is storing high-powered rifles, ammunition, and other equipment in six schools.

MAGA Republicans tout their support for law enforcement but pass bills that put police in danger

  • In 2022, four states with Republican leadership—Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, and Ohio—passed permitless carry legislation despite the objections of law enforcement. Weakened permitting laws have been shown to increase violent crime rates by 13 percent to 15 percent—putting officers and the public at increased risk.
  • An additional six Republican-led states, including Texas, passed similar legislation in 2021.
  • In Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed a law that will allow anyone in the state to carry a gun concealed without a license. Republicans passed this policy over the objections of law enforcement officials from across the state, including from Macon-Bibb County, Muscogee County, Savannah, and Mercer University law enforcement.
  • In Alabama, Gov. Kay Ivey (R) signed a similar permitless carry bill into law over the opposition of law enforcement organizations, including the Alabama Sheriffs Association. Alabama also passed a law this year that would forbid state law enforcement from enforcing federal gun laws. 
  • In Indiana, Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) signed the state’s permitless carry law, despite state sheriffs openly stating that it could make law enforcement’s jobs considerably harder.

Democratic-led states are working to lower gun crime

  • According to CAP Action’s analysis, all 13 Democratic-trifecta states with legislative sessions in 2022 enacted proven solutions to reduce gun crime, including gun violence prevention legislation and funding for community violence intervention.
  • Multiple states enacted ghost gun bans this year, including Illinois, Delaware, and Washington, making it more difficult for people—particularly children—who should not have firearms from gaining access to them. In 2019, a 16-year-old in California killed two students and injured three more using a ghost gun. Earlier this year, a 13-year-old in Maryland brought a ghost gun to school.
  • In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) signed a new bill into law that allows the state attorney general to sue gun manufacturers and hold them accountable for infractions related to the sale or marketing of firearms.
  • Oregon enacted H.B. 4045 to support public health approaches to gun violence and provide additional funding for community violence intervention programs.
  • Delaware passed legislation to prohibit the sale and transfer of assault weapons, along with five other significant gun reforms following the Uvalde shooting.

Democratic- and Republican-led states had extremely different responses following the Uvalde and Buffalo mass shootings

Seventeen states had legislative sessions ongoing at the time of the Buffalo and Uvalde mass shootings. Of these, six had a Republican trifecta: Arizona, Iowa, Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio, and South Carolina; five had a Democratic trifecta: California, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island; and six had split power: Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

In states led by Democrats, legislators passed more than 30 gun safety bills to protect children and communities following mass shootings:

Not a single Republican-led state took action to keep kids safe in the wake of Buffalo and Uvalde—but two states actively made it easier for dangerous people to access guns:

  • Four of the six states with Republican governors and majorities in both chambers in session at the time of the mass shootings—Arizona, Iowa, Missouri, and South Carolina—ignored skyrocketing gun crime and refused to act.
  • The two Republican-led states that did act—Ohio and New Hampshire—increased access to guns. In Ohio, Republican lawmakers made it easier to bring guns into schools and in New Hampshire, Republican legislators made it more difficult for police to solve gun crimes.

2 tragedies, 2 responses: How New York and Texas responded to mass shootings in their states  

In the days following the shooting in Buffalo, the New York Legislature and governor passed 10 substantial gun reforms into law.

The new laws will reduce gun crime by raising the age from 18 to 21 for the purchase of semi-automatic rifles like those used in the shooting and by strengthening the state’s extreme risk law, which keeps guns out of the hands of those who are at risk of harming themselves or others. The laws will also enhance information sharing across law enforcement agencies to support police in preventing and responding to gun crime.

In the days following the shooting in Uvalde, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) ignored calls for a special session to pass reforms that could have prevented the Uvalde mass shooting. Instead of taking action, Gov. Abbott attended a campaign fundraiser the night of the Uvalde shooting.

Just days later, Gov. Abbott and other Republican state lawmakers welcomed the NRA convention to Texas, where they called for expanded access to firearms.

Conclusion

Democrat-led states are working to prevent gun violence in schools by passing commonsense gun safety legislation and holding the gun lobby accountable. Meanwhile, extreme MAGA Republicans are making it easier for dangerous people to access guns and undermining law enforcement’s attempts to respond when gun violence breaks out. Instead of working to keep kids safe in schools, Republican-led states have focused on keeping books out of classrooms.

The positions of American Progress, and our policy experts, are independent, and the findings and conclusions presented are those of American Progress alone. A full list of supporters is available here. American Progress would like to acknowledge the many generous supporters who make our work possible.

Author

the Center for American Progress Action Fund

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