Conservative commentator S.E. Cupp has been such a staunch supporter of the NRA that she was once featured as an "NRA mom" in an ad campaign. But over the weekend and in the wake of back-to-back mass shootings in two American cities that left 31 people dead, Cupp said on her CNN show that she'd decided to quit the organization.
"I am so sick and tired of participating in this predictable cycle of politics, where a mass shooting happens, the left calls for new gun laws—some meaningful, some unproductive—and the right yells 'slippery slope' and hides behind the Constitution," she said. "Nothing happens, nothing changes. And with the next mass shooting, we do it all over again."
Cupp announced that she'd canceled her membership with the NRA and issued a call to action, proposing universal background checks, bans on 100-round ammunition drums, gun-violence restraining orders, and mental health programs in schools. But above all, she demanded a new conversation about gun control in America and implored conservatives and progressives to engage in a more honest and even emotional discourse about how to solve the crisis. As she put it, "[I]n the wake of more mass shootings—senseless violence that sent innocent people running for their lives, leaving children orphaned, loved ones dead on the ground—we must do something about guns."
Here Cupp explains what has (and hasn't) changed when it comes to her perspective on guns and how she hopes lawmakers will react to renewed pressure to take action on the issue. Also, to the furious conservatives in her mentions: She's still a proud supporter of the Second Amendment.
I didn’t discover hunting and shooting until later in life. But almost from the start, guns were political for me, because I was and am a political person. As a conservative, I aligned with Second Amendment arguments. That felt natural.
To be frank, a lot of the voices on the left weren’t honest in their arguments and were sometimes inaccurate about guns and gun owners. I was frustrated, and so I pointed that out. Calling out the mistakes that the media made in talking about guns, pointing out the mistakes that Democrats made talking about guns—that just became something I did. I’m still proud of the work, and to be clear, I’m still a supporter of the Second Amendment. That hasn’t changed. What has changed is I’m a mom now. I know it sounds clichéd, but it’s true. When I was pregnant, I wrote about what it felt like to hunt and shoot as a pregnant woman. I felt empowered and even like it taught me a lot about becoming a mother.
But of course now I am a mom and that’s made me, in some circumstances, even more pro–Second Amendment than I had been and also made me take a step back from how I once handled a number of political arguments. Because now it’s personal. Whether it’s gun control or immigration, when there’s more at stake and it’s personalized and contextualized, I see it in a different light. I would hope that’s true for a lot of people.
What frustrates me about the gun argument among conservatives is that we have done the same thing for as long as I can remember, which is give no ground. And the reason we did that is because we have felt that there’s a slippery slope on gun control. There was this imperative not to give an inch. But it just started to feel like the usual conversations after these mass shootings were getting us nowhere. And if I can help move that discussion a millimeter, then I need to do that. Instead of being part of the problem, I want to be a part of a solution. I don’t have a whole solution. I don’t even have a fragment of a solution. But the biggest point I want to make is that we all need to put down our weapons and just talk.
I get how people on the right feel. When the left villainizes law-abiding gun owners, that sucks. It also doesn’t help convince people on my side to reconsider their views. Telling us we have blood on our hands—that is not productive. But I can also see how the left see us. Saying no to everything, even conversations about more gun laws, isn’t helping.
I know people are accusing me of being emotional about this. Well, I am emotional about it. As a journalist I am sick and tired of covering these gruesome stories and seeing nothing happen. As a mom I’m sick and tired of watching these shootings happen and being afraid for my kid. And frankly, as a conservative, as a Second Amendment rights advocate, I feel like I’m part of the problem if I don’t attempt to shake loose some of the intransigence around this issue. I don’t want to give up our rights. That’s not what I’m suggesting we all do—just concede and roll over. But I think there is space to have a conversation about this from an honest place as humans, not politicians, not political ideologues, not special interests, but humans. I’m not naive. I don’t think I can change this conversation overnight, but if this gives permission to someone else on my side of this issue to say, "You know, maybe it isn’t unreasonable to talk about the usefulness of a 100-round drum. Maybe it’s not unreasonable to have that conversation," that’s enough for me.
Politics and partisanship have forced us to be absolutists on an issue. But no issue is absolute. No right is absolute. As we see these mass shootings become more frequent, we have to start examining our own positions. I’m aware of all the statistics. I came armed with all the statistics for a decade. I used the statistics to make the case. “You want to talk about an assault weapons ban, well, assault weapons are responsible for 2% of gun crimes. You want to talk about mass shootings? Okay, gun deaths are more common from handguns.” I know all the stats. I got it! But just spitting out statistics—it has started to feel like a cop-out. It’s a conversation ender. We need to do the opposite: to be open, to be honest, and to be prepared to change our minds. And that means those on the left have to do that too. I’m not too proud to go first.
I didn’t talk to a lot of people in private about what I wanted to share before I talked about it in public. I talked to my husband about it. And I talked to one friend, a well-known, public person who I knew felt similar to me, and I said, “How bad is this going to be?” And he said, “It’s going to be bad.” And then I think his exact words were, “But fuck it.”
The truth is I don’t really care about what colleagues on the right think. I knew what I was in for, and what mattered was that I had my family’s support. My husband is a gun owner. My husband is Republican. He worked for the NRA. So this was not without some risk. But I didn’t want to stick a finger in the air and test how the wind would blow. I didn’t want to make a decision about this based on what other people think. Just looking at how people in your own camp feel? And making choices based on that? That’s a great way to get more and more insular. I don’t think that’s productive. I know it feels good. But it doesn’t help.
I didn’t come forward to launch a specific platform. And I don’t think what I said should be seen as all that courageous. I’m not here to impress someone or to tell people what to do. I just felt like I couldn’t participate in the same conversation again and have the exact same role in it again. I have heard from a number of voices on the other side, people who probably wouldn’t have talked to me before this. Some activists. Some Democratic lawmakers. People who just wanted to thank me. And that’s nice, but what I’d love to do is continue the conversation and explore opportunities together. I’d love to advise from my side of this issue about where I think we could find some agreement. And above all, I just want to listen. I feel like on both sides of this, we haven’t done a great job at that. But it can be different. I want to hear from you. You want to hear from me. Let’s see what’s possible, instead of deciding what’s impossible before we even talk.
The past few years have been emotionally disorienting for me, not just when it comes to gun violence. It’s immigration. It’s caging kids at the border. It’s how members of my own party are talking about people—real people. I know I’ll be accused of letting my emotions guide this conversation, but when did that become such a bad thing? Aren’t we all human at the end of the day? And shouldn’t some of this be emotional? People dying in mass shootings? Kids separated from their parents? Shouldn’t we be emotional when we talk about racism and white supremacy and anti-Semitism? Shouldn’t that come from an emotional place? If not, I just fear that we’re sanitizing these conversations for the sake of politics. And I believe that’ll get us nowhere.
S.E. Cupp is a political commentator and the host of S.E. Cupp: Unfiltered on CNN.
Originally Appeared on Glamour