Tennessee Republican Blames Gun Violence On ‘Grocery Store Pornography’

The leading candidate for the GOP nomination for Tennessee's next Governor has a unique explanation for gun violence.

Congresswoman Diane Black of Tennessee, who is currently running for the Republican nomination for Governor, has a new theory for what’s behind mass shooting events: (Emphasis mine)

Representative Diane Black, a Republican who is a candidate for Tennessee governor, drew criticism this week for saying that the “root” causes of gun violence included the “deterioration of family,” violent movies and widely available pornography.

A spokesman for Ms. Black’s campaign said she was referring to factors that contribute to violence.

“It’s no surprise that the liberal media would misconstrue the views of conservative Christians,” the spokesman, Chris Hartline, said in an email on Wednesday. “Diane, like many others, believes that the breakdown of family values and social structures is a contributing factor to violence. That’s clear if you actually listen to her words instead of reading clickbait headlines.”

Ms. Black, a gun rights supporter who opposes firearm restrictions, made the comments in a meeting with local pastors last week, according to HuffPost, which obtained audio that was recorded at the gathering.

“Why do we see kids being so violent?” she can be heard asking. “Because as a nurse I go back to root cause. And I think there’s a couple.”

“I think it’s deterioration of family,” she added. “They don’t have that good support system,” which leads children “in the wrong direction.”

Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop, Ms. Black said.

She then brought up “violent movies” as being part of the problem, a claim that experts have disputed.

“I still cannot watch one of those violent movies where people are being blown up, because I’m not desensitized to that,” she said. “I didn’t watch that as a kid.”

Next, Ms. Black mentioned pornography.

“It’s available — it’s available on the shelf when you walk in the grocery store,” she said. “Yeah, you have to reach up to get it, but there’s pornography there. All of this is available without parental guidance. And I think that is a big part of the root cause that we see so many young people that have mental illness get caught in these places.”

Mental illness has also been linked to gun violence time and again, even though over all, mass shootings by people with serious mental illness represent 1 percent of all gun homicides each year, according to the book “Gun Violence and Mental Illness,” published by the American Psychiatric Association in 2016.

Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which is affiliated with the nonprofit pro-gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety, denounced the congresswoman’s words on Tuesday.

“Despite all of the data and experts at her disposal, Tennessee lawmaker chooses to blame ‘grocery store pornography’ for school shootings,” Ms. Watts said on Twitter. “And she doesn’t mean the magazines that glorify guns.”

Ms. Black’s spokesman disputed that this was what the lawmaker had said.

“She says a root cause of violence is mental illness and the breakdown in family values and social structures,” Mr. Hartline said. “She uses easy access to pornography as an example of that.”

Mitt Romney made similar points in 2007 when seeking the Republican presidential nomination.

“Pornography and violence poison our music and movies and TV and video games,” he said at the time. “The Virginia Tech shooter, like the Columbine shooters before him, had drunk from this cesspool.”

My first reaction is to wonder just exactly what the grocery stores in Tennessee are like. I’ve lived in both New Jersey and Virginia, and while grocery stores in both states routinely had an aisle that included a magazine, and sometimes book, display it was never the case that you could find something like Playboy or Penthouse, much less anything more graphic than that, in those displays. (Not that I ever looked when I was a teenager, of course.) At most, you’d see copies of fitness magazines that featured women in bikinis and men working out or, maybe, copies of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition when that issue came out in February of each year. The same is generally true of stores such as Walgreen’s and CVS. If you wanted one of the “those” magazines you’d have to go to a bookstore or maybe one of the local convenience stores. (Again, not that I looked for any such things when I was a teenager.) Are things different in Tennesse? Do their grocery stores have a pornography aisle or something? Inquiring minds want to know.

Beyond this question, though, there’s the utter silliness of the assertions that Black makes in her comments here. Whether its video games, “violence on television,” or pornography, there is simply no evidence of any connection between these outside forces and mass shooting events. Indeed, if that connection did exist, such incidents would be far more common than they are today. Nonetheless, Black’s comments are nothing new for conservatives. For decades now, people on the right have claimed that sexually explicit and violent media is responsible for a wide variety of social ills even though there’s no evidence to support such a conclusion. With respect to gun violence in particular, of course, this is yet another example of the tendency of people on the right to blame gun violence on anything other than the availability of access to weapons that exists in this country, even for people who are underage and not supposed to possess firearms to begin with. No doubt, though, this rhetoric will play well with social conservatives in Tennessee.

As far as the race for Tennessee Governor goes it’s worth noting that current polling shows Black leading in the race for the Republican nomination, although the primary and also shows Black leading either of the two most likely Democratic nominees. There’s still plenty of time, of course, between the August 2nd primary and today, and even more time between now and the General Election. As things stand right now, though, Black is on track to become the next Governor of Tennessee. This is unlikely to harm her significantly.

 

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2018, Congress, Guns and Gun Control, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. gVOR08 says:

    Has anyone told the woman about the 21st Century? And apparently I missed the announcement of the great Canadian porn ban.

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  2. Franklin says:

    I think the thing that irritates the rest of us about comments like that is that conservative Christians think they are the only people teaching their kids right from wrong. In my experience, I do not believe that to be true.

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  3. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    You don’t have to be stupid to be a Republican, but odds are…if you are stupid…you are a Republican.

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  4. Kathy says:

    Porn magazines were always easily available at airport newsstands, though later they were wrapped in opaque plastic.

    Conservatives have odd definitions about what is porn, though. I heard a story about Tom Landry, the brilliant head coach of the team that must not be named, to the effect that he objected to the cheerleaders outfits as pornographic. Tex Schramm, the team owner, then screened some porn films for him so he would know the difference.

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  5. Joe says:

    Good thing the kids in Tennessee don’t have the Internet. It would be like a civil war!

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  6. CSK says:

    I’d be interested to know where she does her grocery shopping.

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  7. James Pearce says:

    No doubt, though, this rhetoric will play well with social conservatives in Tennessee.

    If Diane Black blamed these grocery store porno mags for rape culture and the prevalence of MRAs, she could get the whole state to vote for her.

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  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Do their grocery stores have a pornography aisle or something? Inquiring minds want to know.

    Maybe they have special grocery stores that only the right people know of.

    This is unlikely to harm her significantly.

    Proof again that you can’t fix stupid.

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  9. CSK says:

    ORA: “Hey, Ralph, how much is a copy of Orgasm?”

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  10. teve tory says:

    You don’t have to be stupid to be a Republican, but odds are…if you are stupid…you are a Republican.

    Stupid people with shitty values.

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  11. Hal_10000 says:

    I think she may have a point on the breakdown of family — although that is probably more relevant to the larger problem of violence than to mass shootings specifically. But for the porn … uh, yeah. The porn grabbers are always looking for some reason to ban it even though violence and sexual violence specifically have dropped dramatically during the biggest porn boom in history. I do wonder if the McNeill rule applies here: if she’s so fascinating with extreme porn, she thinks others are too.

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  12. de stijl says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Maybe they have special grocery stores that only the right people know of.

    It’s like the Harry Potter train station. Platform 9¾ on 1 September at 11 AM sharp.

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  13. Mister Bluster says:

    @Kathy:..Tex Schramm, the team owner, then screened some porn films for him so he would know the difference.

    It was a stiff assignment but somehow he handled it!

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  14. Kathy says:

    @CSK:

    I’d be interested to know where she does her grocery shopping.

    Probably a store that should be in The Simpsons, like “Debbie Does Groceries,” or “Deep Pantry.”

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  15. An Interested Party says:

    It’s amazing how literally everything in the entire world is responsible for gun violence EXCEPT for…guns…

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  16. Not the IT Dept. says:

    She thinks teenagers look at magazines?

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  17. Mister Bluster says:

    @An Interested Party:..except for guns.

    “Guns are inanimate objects, they don’t have a conscience. They can’t be held accountable for anything.”

    You could say the same about skin magazines.

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  18. michael reynolds says:

    Ms. Black is on the right track, but a bit confused on the specifics: it’s not the magazines in the grocery store, it’s the produce.

    Walk through any produce section and what jumps out at you? Phalluses! Or possibly phalli. From the suggestive curve of a banana, to the perverse hint of phallic malformation that is the summer squash; from the pedophiliac baby carrot, to the embarrassing dimensions of the smaller zucchini, to the expectations-raising proportions of the so-called English cucumber which, adding insult to injury, comes wrapped in what can only be described as a vegetable condom, the produce department is filled with pornographic imagery.

    Then there are the heirloom tomatoes which so often present lewd folds and creases, the melons whose very name carries sexual connotations. How long will it take before standards fall so far that we see eggplants – those perpetuations of racist myth – lying cuddled between ripe Asian pears or adolescent nectarines?

    And the entire question of plums cannot even be addressed in a family publication.

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  19. michael reynolds says:

    Also: walnuts.

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  20. Mister Bluster says:
  21. Bill says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Also: walnuts.

    Casaba melons and what those might make young men think of.

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  22. MarkedMan says:

    @de stijl:

    It’s like the Harry Potter train station. Platform 9¾ on 1 September at 11 AM sharp.

    I think you are on to something here de stijl. Maybe we can convince the whole state of Tennessee to run as fast as they can at a brick wall…

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