Mass shootings are not the price we pay for freedom, they’re the price we pay for gutless politicians.
Case in point: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, echoing other Republicans, says it’s too early to talk about how Congress could prevent bloodbaths like the one Sunday in Las Vegas where a heavily-armed sniper, shooting from the 32nd floor of a hotel, killed 59 people and injured more than 520.
“I think it’s particularly inappropriate to politicize an event like this, which just happened in the last day and a half. Entirely premature to be discussing about legislative solutions if any,” McConnell tut-tutted to reporters on Tuesday.
Why is silence so golden? Could it be the $50 million that the National Rifle Association pumped into supporting Donald Trump and six Republican Senate candidates last year? Lots of small donors give to the NRA; the gun industry puts up the big bucks.
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The NRA’s clout probably explains why Republicans in Congress never think it’s the right time to pursue solutions — not even after 20 children were shot to death at Sandy Hook Elementary.
McConnell is wrong. Now is the time for action; in fact, it’s past time. To do nothing dishonors the victims. Their suffering demands a search for solutions. Why not a select committee on gun violence? The 30,000-plus Americans who will lose their lives to gunfire this year deserve more from Congress than condolences.
Mass shootings are almost unique to the United States where they average one a day. Residents of the United States are no more evil or violent than those of other countries. It’s just that nowhere else makes it so handy to obtain an arsenal and open fire.
Australia has a vast countryside and a tradition of rugged individualism to rival our own. After a gunman killed 35 people in 1996, Australia’s lawmakers banned military-style weapons, imposed a 28-day waiting period for gun purchases, established a national firearms registry and conducted a gun buyback. Since then homicides and suicides have dramatically declined and there have been no mass shootings.
Congress should reinstate the ban on military-style weapons that are designed to kill a lot of people fast. Congress also should ban the sale of high-capacity magazines and devices that enable the firing of hundreds of rounds per minute, as well as require background checks before all gun purchases. Polls show that the public, including gun owners, would welcome such reasonable restrictions
Yet, Congress is poised to OK more favors for the NRA, including expanding the right to carry a concealed weapon across state lines and lifting longstanding restrictions on the purchase of suppressors, AKA silencers.
Suppressors muffle and disperse the sound of a gunshot. More of them would make it harder for police to track shooters and would endanger first responders. Packaged as protection for hunters’ hearing, the bill, which recently cleared a House committee, also would legalize the sale of armor-piercing bullets and enact a number of provisions harmful to wildlife and the environment, including reversing the ban on lead bullets and fishing tackle on federal lands.
Rest assured, the writers of the Constitution would never confuse a “well regulated militia” with random mass shootings of innocent civilians. Congress has plenty of room to safeguard the constitutional right to bear arms while finally protecting the public.