29 31 people are dead after mass shootings last weekend in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. Dozens more are seriously wounded. We’ll say again what we said in this space after the STEM school shooting in Highlands Ranch last spring: If you want change, you need to get rid of the (largely Republican) elected officials who are doing everything in their power to maintain the bloody status quo.
As Felicia Sonmez and Paul Kane write for the Washington Post, Republican leaders have been largely silent or uselessly vague in response to the latest wave of domestic terrorism to strike the United States:
The Republican Party, which controls power in Washington and both states where America’s most recent mass shootings occurred, struggled on Sunday to provide a response or offer a solution to what has become a public safety epidemic…
…Some Republicans, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, cited the influence of social media and video games or mentioned mental health problems. But on the question of how to stem the rising tide of gun violence, the overwhelming response from the party was silence or generalities. [Pols emphasis]…
…The reaction mirrored how the GOP has responded after other mass shootings whose city names have become painfully familiar to most Americans — Parkland, Fla.; Sutherland Springs, Tex.; Las Vegas; Virginia Beach; Pittsburgh and Annapolis, Md.
A handful of Republican lawmakers on Sunday endorsed stricter gun controls, but most in the GOP ignored Democratic demands that the Senate abandon its summer recess and return to Washington to address the issue. The House passed two bills in February that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has refused to consider.
After offering very little of substance on Saturday and Sunday, President Trump today endorsed calls from his daughter, Ivanka Trump, for a federal version of a “red flag” law. Generally referred to as Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPO), these efforts are are also supported by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina). Dudley Brown, the head honcho at Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO), which is a more-extreme version of the NRA in Colorado, immediately hit back at Trump’s suggestion.
In remarks to the media today, Trump also decried white nationalism, blamed video games for violent behavior, and offered prayers for the people of “Toledo,” which is, of course, a completely different city than Dayton, Ohio. Trump’s response certain won’t make anyone feel like the issue of gun violence is being taken seriously by the White House. Trump’s call to focus on mental illness rings hollow given his earlier efforts to make it easier for the mentally ill to get their hands on a firearm (Colorado Republicans, BTW, opposed legislation in the spring to improve mental health services in our state).
Gun violence is also not being given any real consideration by the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — or #MassacreMitch, as he is trending on social media accounts — is flat-out refusing to even allow debate on two packages of gun safety legislation passed by the House of Representatives in February.
Many Republicans reacted to news of the shootings by setting up straw men that they could then pretend to take down with their own rhetoric. South Carolina Republican Sen. Tim Scott appeared on the CBS show “Face the Nation” to make this point: “A lot of folks say that prayers don’t matter. Well, I will disagree with them vehemently.”
Here in Colorado, former State House Speaker Frank McNulty took a similar approach:
Americans are rightly tired of elected officials doing little else aside from offering “thoughts and prayers” after a mass shooting, which is where Sen. Scott and McNulty miss the point here entirely. Prayer is important for many people, but it isn’t a solution to the problem of gun violence in America. Please do pray for the victims of gun violence; when you’re done, call your U.S. Senator. There may not be one single piece of legislation that could have prevented the many mass shootings over the last week, but something is better than nothing at all. We didn’t stop mandating seatbelts in cars just because that policy failed to stop every deadly accident.
The primary suspect in the El Paso shootings.
While Scott and McNulty are focused on something entirely different, at least they didn’t echo the response from Ohio State Rep. Candice Keller, a Republican who represents an area near Dayton, Ohio. Keller placed the blame for mass shootings in a number of different places — from “drag queens” to “transgender” to former President Barack Obama and professional athletes who fail to stand for the playing of the National Anthem. Guns don’t kill people; drag queens force people with guns to kill other people. And also Colin Kapernick, or something. Whatever point Keller was trying to make, the important takeaway here is that nothing in her response had anything to do with taking practical steps to deal with the problem of gun violence in America.
As for Colorado Republicans, Kyle Clark of 9News provides some important context:
Can we solve the crisis of mass shootings in Colorado and the rest of the country? It is absolutely possible…we just can’t do it with the current batch of Republicans in charge.