The AR-15 lapel pin, Christmas greetings with guns, and virtue signaling from the right

Jason Pauley
6 min readJun 10, 2023

Jason Pauley

I own an AR-15. Other than by reading the first few sentences of this article, you would never know it. It is stored, locked up and half disassembled, with the ammunition stored separately. Occasionally for fun I take it to the range on a Saturday, shoot off 60 minutes’ worth of rounds (slowly…ammo is expensive nowadays) then it goes back into its place until next time. What I don’t do, is adorn my online and physical existence with AR-15 or gun symbolism. No T-shirt with an AR-15 and the slogan “come and get it”, no window decals on the car, no gun emojis, no lapel pins, and no Christmas cards with the family appearing ready for an invasion. Why? Well, for one it’s weird. But also, it’s disrespectful, thuggish, troll-like behavior used to virtue signal to gullible sycophants and upset a large number of Americans who fear guns, and to a greater extent, fear AR-15s.

In short…It’s a dick move.

To do this while mass shootings are seemingly on the rise, and the worst of these mass murders come from the muzzle of an AR-15, is the icing on the turd cake served by these bullies in state and federal government.

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It doesn’t matter what the tragedy of the day happens to be, don’t intentionally create incremental sadness and anger around it, just for laughs, social media dopamine boosts, or lib-owning. If hot air balloons are crashing into festivals, schools, or shopping malls once a week and killing people by the dozen, then don’t wear your fucking hot air balloon pin or tweet out images of hot air balloons for no good reason. I would suggest that these performative thugs read the room, but they are…they are reading the room and they know that gun symbolism evokes feelings of anger, sadness, and fear while they lord over their perceived enemies with images of these killing machines.

Many gun enthusiasts will claim this fear of AR-15s is unfounded. While rifles do in fact, represent a small percentage of gun related homicides in the US (rifles are 5% of known guns used in gun-related homicides), semiautomatic rifles are used at a high rate in the type of attack the people tend to fear the most. Since 2015, semiautomatic rifles are used in 42% of mass shootings, and 57% in mass shootings with 10+ fatalities. Many fears are based on high visibility but low probability events. The AR-15 has a unique place in people’s conscience because of the amount of destruction it can do in a short amount of time. The point of terrorism is not only the physical destruction and direct killing, but to leave an imprint an instill fear in a community. The news will always lead with the most fear-inducing story, our conversations with others will often focus on the latest tragedy, and these tragic events will always take up a disproportionate amount of real estate in our minds. The symbol that is often associate with this fear is the AR-15.

The irony with gun fetishism from the (mostly) right, is how often they speak in pejorative terms about left-leaning people who “virtue signal” while often littering their physical and online persona in AR-15 and gun symbolism. This is the definition of virtue signaling. But it’s their virtue, so it doesn’t fit the bill.

If we have learned two things about a large portion of the GOP and some of their supporters over the past few years, it’s that the goal is to (1) own the libs and (2) cruelty is the point. For many in the party, there is no other purpose. Marjorie Taylor Greene and her ilk were not elected to do the hard work of detailed and nuanced legislation. They were elected for mean tweets and school-yard bullying.

As I mentioned, I believe a big part of the motivation by these politicians is lib-owning, and for some of them that’s their only skill. But their cosplaying Christmas greetings, AR-15 pins, or social media videos/images of them shooting stuff also provide utility as a distraction.

Perhaps when George Santos’ followers see an AR-15 pin, they think “he’s on my team” instead of acknowledging his alleged crimes such as wire fraud, money laundering, check stealing, and all the ridiculous lies he was caught vomiting from his mouth hole during his campaign.

Despite Lauren Boebert’s state of Colorado having a history of tragic mass shootings, she takes glee in tweeting out her Christmas photo with her young children all holding AR-15s. Her disregard for many in her district who fear this weapon or suffered loss from these tragedies, brings joy to her supporters as they get distracted from her and her husband’s multiple brushes with the law.

Marjorie Taylor Greene posts photos or videos of herself with guns so we forget that she thinks space lasers are starting forest fires, or that she has been a supporter of QAnon, or that she spoke at an event held by a white nationalist, or that she is concerned about the “gazpacho” police, or that she suggested the death penalty for Nancy Pelosi, or that she harassed a teenage survivor of the Parkland shooting, or that she…you get the point. The list of embarrassment is nearly endless but as long as her supporters can see her fake tough-guy act and gun tweets, they’ll never doubt her capability to serve as an elected official.

Politicians and extreme partisan folks love strawmen, and the war on Christmas is one of the favorite strawmen coming from the right. What better way to disrespect Christmas than with weapons of war, or any weapon for that matter. Nothing about Christmas should evoke thoughts or symbolism of tools used to tear through flesh, skulls, organs, and end lives. Spare us the war on Christmas poppycock when you’re tweeting a picture of your child in front of a Christmas tree holding an AR-15. It’s so easy to just to NOT post a Christmas greeting with your family holding AR-15s. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

I’m not judging those who fear or don’t fear guns, and I’m not smart enough to write about solutions to the problem of guns and homicides in America where we outpace nearly every developed nation in murder rates. We clearly need to do something over doing nothing, and there are countless articles and ideas with potential solutions. My opinion here is solely related to the gun fetishism and the delight in which some of despicable people take in gloating in front of their perceived political or ideological enemies in the face of tragedy. The sad part is this type of performative drivel works, because it’s red meat for followers to stay energized while these lazy politicians do nothing other than think of their next mean tweet and get their dopamine fix while the LOLs flow in. The last thing I want to see after the Marjory Stoneman Douglass, the Tree of Life Synagogue, or the Uvalde Elementary School shootings, is some entitled congressperson brat with an AR-15 lapel pin. These people know it’s the last thing I want to see, and that’s why they do it.



Jason Pauley

Passionate about Analytics (Football, Sports, Marketing, Sales, Demographics)