Ethics Dunce And Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month: Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky)

Massie photo

Res ipsa loquitur and signature significance, all in a family Christmas card.


Rep. Massie posted that heart-warming Christmas scene just four days after the Michigan school shooting, which came to pass because another family was so gun happy that it deliberately put a semi-automatic in the hands of a 15-year-old and allowed him to return to class after clear signs that he had murder on his mind.

Merry Christmas!

I don’t have space on the blog to detail all of what’s wrong with that photo, but here’s a brief summary:

  • It suggests to the public that wackos are making our laws in Congress. That grinning clan looks like a scene from a National Lampoon movie. Why are they armed? If there is a legitimate threat (to the Christmas tree?), why are they smiling?
  • There would never be time when such a photo wouldn’t be tasteless, but within less than a week of a deadly school shooting even edges out the Christmas season for bad taste—and Massie posted this BOTH after a shooting and for Christmas. Is he trying to be obnoxious and to upset as many people as possible? Is a family behaving like a pre-raid vigilante hit squad a respectful context to celebrate “Peace on Earth, Good Will T’ward Men”? Choosing such an image while recognizing how many Americans will find it inappropriate would make Massey an asshole. Or does he not realize the photo is tasteless and obnoxious? That would mean he’s an idiot. Assholes are dangerous in Congress. Idiots aren’t qualified to serve.
  • Massie appears to have his finger on the trigger, which means he might have inadvertently shot off his wife’s kneecap right after the photo was taken. He is clearly a student of the Alec Baldwin School of Firearms Safety.
  • If he set out to announce, “I am in the National Rifle Association’s pocket!,” a full page ad in the Washington Post couldn’t have made the point more emphatically.
  • This doesn’t help protect the Second Amendment at all. It portrays gun enthusiasts as obsessed lunatics.

Libertarian law professor and blogging legend Glenn Reynolds knocked himself a few more levels down in my estimation by writing that Massie’s ugly timing was fine because “he was pro-gun before and after this random event.”  Reynold went on to say that what Massie’s critics are unhappy about “is that they weren’t able to cow him into not expressing his position, and accepting that guns are somehow evil. Good for him.”

Well, never let it be said that only progressive law professors have lost their ethics alarms during The Great Stupid.

I rate that photo as the conservative equivalent of a Pelosi Christmas card showing Nancy and the rest of the family in front of a Christmas tree and holding up duplicates of Kathy Griffin’s severed Trump head.

67 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce And Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month: Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky)

  1. All that you said, and more. I don’t know much about guns, but aren’t at least a few of those in the photo automatic weapons? I do know that one doesn’t shoot game with automatic weapons, as that renders the edible meat useless. So what, exactly, does this family intend to shoot? The intruder who will be turned to mush?

    I support the Second Amendment, but it is sick assholes like these who will end up having it repealed, and we’ll be in the same situation as the UK — citizens defenseless against all those who have illegal weapons.

    And, finally, Kentucky voters put this guy in office? One can only hope that Massie was able to effectively hide his sociopathy. If not, I think I’ll stay out of Kentucky (beautiful as it is) for a long, long time.

    This is worse than the “ick” factor. I think you should have a “fear” factor as well.

    “Be afraid. Be very afraid.”

    • While this photo is definitely in bad taste, I’m not sure why it would cause fear. It’s a family of gun owners holding legal weapons safely during a photo.

      Releasing this photo shortly after a school shooting in another state is pretty icky, sure. But labeling him a sick asshole or a sociopath seems a bit of a stretch. There is nothing inherently wrong with this photo, or even particularly alarming.

      I suspect because you aren’t familiar with guns, these seem especially scary. They aren’t any more scary than any other semi-auto rifle. Each gun fires one bullet per trigger pull. Guns built on the AR platform are most often .223s or 5.56s (i.e. relatively small caliber). Standard semi-auto hunting rifles operate exactly the same as the rifles in this photo, but are larger caliber (bigger bullet).

      Again, I 100% agree the time for this photo wasn’t this year, and maybe not any year. However, people in his state own guns. They likely voted for him because he does too, and ran on a platform to support gun rights. Being stupid isn’t sociopathic, it’s just stupid.

      • If a Christmas card showed a family all eating pizza, I’d say it showed an unhealthy obsession with pizza. If one showed a family all holding aborted babies, I’d say that family had a morbid obsession with abortion. If they all were wearing pussy hats….see the trend? Thinking that a Christmas card is an appropriate place and time to extol gun ownership is abnormal. I get worried when people who make our laws show themselves to be abnormal. It’s worth being afraid about, not of the guns, but of people whose priority is guns during a season that is supposed to be about love and peace.

        • I respectfully disagree. The only way a photo of a family each holding an aborted baby is remotely equivalent is if that family aborts babies as a hobby. Otherwise, no dice.

          I’ve been around guns my entire life. Nothing about this photo worries me. My brother and his wife took engagement photos with their guns, their dogs, and their bow and arrows. Us folks in the flyover states have hobbies that involve guns. This photo isn’t even all that unusual, I’ve probably seen a dozen or more similar photos.

            • Agreed, and that’s not what my reply intended to say. I’m offering a different perspective from someone who lives in an area with a strong gun culture. I’m further pointing out that your argument contained false equivalents because guns aren’t just to kill people, while that’s all abortions do.

              This picture is likely shocking or alarming to people unused to seeing this type of picture, I’m saying this isn’t actually all that crazy. Very poor taste, horrible timing, definitely.

              • But Michelle, isn’t it crazy for the representative of the public to post Christmmas cards in very poor taste and with horrible timing? Again I ask, does he realize its obnoxious? Then he’s a jerk. If he doesn’t, then he’s an idiot. I don’t want jerks or idiots making laws.

                • Honestly, I doubt he thinks it’s obnoxious at all. When I first looked at the picture, I didn’t think anything at all about it. I can see where it’s poor taste for folks who don’t hunt, aren’t gun enthusiasts, or are just generally not into them at all. Guns aren’t political in my world, they’re just a tool I use. I can agree with poor timing, and the optics for non-gun people is pretty much what you’ve posted here. I’m just trying to give another perspective in that I doubt he was trying to be a jerk, and didn’t intend to be an idiot either. I’m not familiar with this guy, nor his family, so I don’t truly know what motivation he had for this photo, but I do know I didn’t initially have any negative reaction to it. But then I likely wouldn’t, I own two of the same guns in this photo.

                  • None of this makes sense. It has nothing to do with objections to guns.a) Christmas is not about guns, or any weapons at all. b) Grinning like a zany while holding guns in a large group is bonkers and creepy per se. c) It’s spectacularly tome deaf after a school shooting. d) It’s grandstanding, and to what end? What is such a photo supposed to communicate? e) It’s juvenile. I was reminded of my colege druggie friends getting photos of them all with bongs and joints.

                    Jeez. Leadership. Dignity. Christmas. Honestly, I worry about anyone seeing a card like that who doesn’t think, “What the Hell?”

        • Mr Massie is pretty far from what most folks would call normal. His house, which he mostly built himself, is remarkable for how unplugged it is.
          He has solar panels and batteries from wrecked Teslas for his electrical needs; I don’t believe it’s connected to outside power.
          I’m not a fan of photos like this because it will ultimately further the goals of those that would like to curtail our rights even more.

      • I don’t know that I disagree. I suspect this photo and card were weeks in the making and the release merely coincided with a school shooting. To assign more to it than that is knee-jerk reaction.

        I find conflating the 2d Amendment with the holiday season is obnoxious. Would there be outrage if the Congressman posed with his family seated in or a 1948 Ferrari 166 MM Barchetta* because he is a car guy? Probably not but guns are scary, so . . .


        *Ed. Note: did I reference a Rush song? Yes, I did and I will do it again and again.

  2. The finger on the trigger is the only problem I have with this. This violates various safety rules.

    I suppose it would have been also been unethical if they were dressed as stereotypical gangbangers and flashing gang signs.

    • As near as I can tell, his finger is straight out. I see no evidence at all that it’s curled in to be on the trigger itself rather than resting against the trigger guard. It’s a poor angle, which may be misleading you. The fingers underneath are curled a bit, and the camera is angled so that the tip of the trigger finger lines up with the tips of the finger underneath, but the shadows suggest they are further back.

      It’s also pointed forward too far to hit his wife’s kneecap.

  3. Stupid as the photo is, I don’t think the Congressman has his finger on the trigger. It’s a fuzzy photo (I saw another version of the photo that’s a bit clearer) but his finger is straight.

    Quibbling I know, but . . .


  4. “All semi-automatic, not automatic. The latter are banned for private use.”

    Not true. Anyone who can afford the price of admission, pass the federal background check, and ante up the $200 transfer tax can legally purchase a very expensive fully automatic weapon from a Class 3 FFL holder. This has been the case since the passage of the National Firearms Act in 1934. I know several people who own automatic weapons, although the expense of actually shooting the M60 belt-fed machine gun is way too much for most shooters I know.
    Also, not only is his finger not on the trigger, as previously pointed out, but the photo’s perspective is deceptive: the muzzle of that M60 is out way past his wife’s kneecap. She would be in more immediate danger of having her hearing damaged by the muzzle blast.
    Still, the idiot and asshole characterizations fit, regardless of one’s affinity for firearms.

    • Talk about a technicality: The Firearm Owners Protection Act was passed in 1986 and prohibits the possession of new automatic weapons, made after 1986. If the gun was not registered at the time the act was passed, it cannot be legally owned by a private citizen for any reason. If the law had been passed in 1920, you could only own a Bren gun now.

      • Still not correct. The FOPA only banned the transfer of NEW machine guns, i.e. newly manufactured machine guns can only be sold/ transferred to government agencies. Machine guns manufactured and registered before FOPA are still transferrable to private citizens, at least in the free states. The FOPA merely capped the supply, causing an immediate and persistent rise in value.

      • I’m going to have to lean towards Jim’s side on this, mainly because we know the anti-Second crowd and media, as much or maybe more than any authoritarian group we might note, will run with any inaccuracy or bit of misinformation to confuse the public on firearms issues and further their agenda. They even created the nonsense term “assault weapon” and pushed it into widespread use, while still inaccurately referring to AR type firearms as “assault rifles” when they have the chance. We’ve just seen examples of their willful misinformation in the Rittenhouse mess.

        You often, rightly, chastise those on both sides for loose presentation of information. Although not intended to deceive, “banned” is inaccurate here, and whether you consider that a technicality (I don’t), we should not be giving the antis an inch on this topic, IMO. Compromise here seems to rarely ever lead in more than one direction.

        Just for fun, there actually is another way you can make and own new full-auto arms, but it’s an even more difficult and unlikely path than that for those who have the means and inclination to pony-up the price to buy from the admittedly limited existing pool of automatic firearms:

  5. Tasteless yes. But, I humbly submit my opinion that I think I can see what appears to be his fingernail, so maybe it’s the angle and resolution which confuse and not his finger on the trigger.

  6. I will grant that this photo is ill-timed and most likely a political stunt. However, out here in Wyoming, a picture like that would not be considered crazy in the slightest. Enthusiastic, yes. But in rural Wyoming, the culture is getting your first gun before the age of 8. You learn with your mother’s milk that guns are treated with respect, that you don’t point at anything you don’t intend to kill, and you don’t put your finger on the trigger unless you are ready to shoot. Christmas time is often when kids receive their new guns, and a family photo with everyone hefting their new acquisitions would be expected.

    I would hazard that this culture rings true in most of rural America. This is the portion of the country that Obama referred to as “clinging to their religion and guns”. This is the portion designated as “flyover country”. This is group of deplorables who voted Trump into office because they are sick and tired of having their way of life dismissed, derided, and/or attacked.

    Rural Americans really like their guns. And they aren’t simply trophies; they get used. My step-father-in-law sleeps with a loaded pistol under his pillow, hunts for wild game, buys guns and ammunition for his nephews, and (other than being unable to arrive on time if it would save his life) is one of the most responsible people I know. My boss at work bragged how his 13-year-old son shot a hefty bull elk on his own. At the refinery where I work, we can’t plan unit outages during October, because that is hunting season and too many people would be absent or would quit if the choice came down to work or hunting. Half the talk in the workplace centers on hunting or purchasing guns, and there is sizeable grousing about how much Uncle Sam attempts to stick his nose in lawful exchanges of guns.

    My wife took one look at the photo, and she said all she noticed was a family photo of responsible gun owners showing off their prized possessions. Everyone held their guns appropriately. No gun was pointed at anyone, and no one had a finger on a trigger. Yes, she agrees with other commenters that the Congressman does NOT have his finger on the trigger, but on the trigger guard. She said that to her it looked no different than a family of musicians all having their picture taken with their musical instruments.

    If people think this family is a bunch of wack-o’s, I think that goes a long way to explain why there is such a divide in our country. We no longer understand each other, or know where we come from.

    Full disclosure: I come from a household where guns were considered unnecessary and even distasteful, and my wife management to change my mind about guns during an extended argument we were having. I can’t remember the particulars of the argument, but she holds it against me every chance she gets that she changed my mind on guns and gun ownership.

    • I can submit a long, long list of items I value, even cherish, that I would view as inappropriate to have a whole family in a Christmas photo like that holding and grinning.

      And if it’s ill-timed, and seems like a political stunt, then why wouldn’t those in Wyoming think it’s bizarre for a Congressman’s family to do it? Christmas isn’t the time for stunts, and after a mass shooting of kids isn’t the time for in-your-face pro-gun grandstanding.

  7. Reminds me of one of Brian Kemp’s (GA governor) 2018 campaign ads:

    WaPo & others claimed he pointed the shotgun at the kid in the ad, but like the above, that appears to be because of the camera angle. Hand positions indicates it was pointed at an angle away to their left.

    Kemp won, but these things seem to fall into the “You’re not helping” category of stupidly supplying more ammunition to opponents’ suggestions that firearms owners are ignorant and dangerous Yahoos who need to be more regulated..

  8. Imagine if the family was black and urban. And Islamic.

    Should it make a difference? Obviously not.

    Would it make a difference to those who supported the original photo? I conjecture that it very probably would, only the proportion is debateable.

    The same goes for those who didn’t support it.

    Just don’t ask me to justify my conjectures with directly relevant evidence.

    Would it matter if they were all holding skateboards for that matter.

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