“It took less than three hours for the president to back off his call for stronger background check legislation. When he can’t talk about guns when he talks about gun violence, it shows the president remains prisoner to the gun lobby and the NRA,” said Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), according to The Hill, in a joint statement today. In the aftermath of two more horrific mass shootings over the weekend, President Trump addressed the nation this morning, calling for new measures, aka “red-flag laws”, to address keeping severely mentally ill people from accessing guns, but not calling for enhanced background checks or other common sense gun control measures. As the statement from Pelosi and Schumer indicates, Trump had earlier in the day tweeted that he supported “strong background checks,” according to The Hill, but then left that out of his remarks to the nation.
The House passed legislation back in February to require universal background checks for firearm purchases, but the Republican-controlled Senate has failed even to consider that legislation. The NRA and its anti-gun control agenda is indeed a problem, as it, its lobbying efforts, and its money are very much tied up in politics. Nearly all Republicans in Congress carry an “A” or “A+” rating from the NRA, meaning they are doing or will do what the NRA wants them to do, which is to prevent gun control legislation from being passed, even though the majority of the people in this country favor common sense gun control laws.
Congress is supposed to be representing the people, not lobbying interests like the NRA, but the NRA has a very particular and quite strong hold on Republicans. Democrats, most of whom proudly carry an “F” rating from the NRA, do not feel beholden to the NRA the way Republicans do, and so it is that gun control legislation that passes through the Democratic-majority House quite easily is not even considered in the Republican-majority Senate. Both Pelosi and Schumer have suggested that the Senate return early from their August recess in order to consider the background check legislation that has already passed through the House, but even if the Senate returned to consider the legislation, it is doubtful they would pass it. According to The Hill:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Monday knocked President Trump’s remarks on two recent mass shootings, saying he is a “prisoner to the gun lobby and the NRA.” …Trump, during an address from the White House earlier Monday, urged the country to condemn white supremacy and endorsed new measures focusing on mental illness, rather than stricter gun laws. … Trump did outline other possible steps, including a “red-flag” law that would make it easier for law enforcement to identify mentally ill people who should be banned from purchasing guns. …The House passed gun control legislation in February to require universal background checks, but the bill has stalled in the GOP-controlled Senate, where any gun-related legislation faces an uphill climb to get a vote much less passage. … Democrats are trying to build pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to bring up background check legislation after the two shootings, including calls for the GOP leader to bring the upper chamber into session during the August recess.
The so-called “red flag” laws that would aim to keep dangerously mentally ill people from buying firearms would be of limited utility. What about the dangerously mentally ill person who has never come in contact with law enforcement or the mental health community? They would not be identified by such a system. It is doubtful, for instance, than any such red flag law, if it had existed at the time, would have brought Stephen Paddock, who killed 58 people and wounded hundreds more in the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas, to the attention of law enforcement in advance. Red flag laws are insufficient protection. And while it is good that Trump today condemned white supremacists and the hatred that motivates violence, Trump’s overall rhetoric has fueled white supremacist beliefs and actions, so that today’s remarks come off as at best insufficient, at worst hypocritical.
Saturday’s mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, has left 21 people now dead and dozens more wounded. Yesterday’s mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, resulted in at least nine deaths and dozens more injured. The public is outraged. The pattern, unfortunately keeps repeating – there’s a horrific mass shooting, the public, the majority of whom support common sense gun control laws, is outraged, the Democratic-majority House attempts to respond by passing at least some measure of gun control legislation, but the Republican-majority Senate either won’t consider the House’s legislation at all or wouldn’t pass it if they did consider it. Pause. Next mass shooting. Over and over again. If people want common sense gun control laws, and Republicans continue to answer to the NRA’s wishes rather than the people’s wishes, then it would seem the only real way to get such legislation actually signed into law would be to have both the House and Senate with Democratic majorities, along with a Democratic president, so that the president won’t veto such legislation. Will that happen in the 2020 election cycle?