National Opinions

Shooting our way out of a gun epidemic

FILE - Handguns are displayed at the Smith & Wesson booth at the 2016 Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show in Las Vegas.
FILE - Handguns are displayed at the Smith & Wesson booth at the 2016 Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show in Las Vegas. AP

May every legislator who recently voted to expand the right to carry concealed weapons gag on their empty “thoughts and prayers” after the next mass shooting.

And in America, there is always a next mass shooting.

The unfathomable move by the House of Representatives came two months after the worst mass shooting in modern history left 58 dead and hundreds injured in Las Vegas, and one month after a gunman killed 26 churchgoers in Texas.

By a mostly partisan vote of 231 to 198, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act moved a step closer to forcing states to treat concealed carry permits as they would a driver’s license, making them legal in every state. It would also mean gun owners from “permitless” states would be allowed to carry firearms in states that demand them.

Renee Graham

A correction – there’s absolutely nothing unfathomable about this act. That’s because the NRA wants it, and what the NRA wants from Republican politicians it usually gets. While pushing for fewer gun restrictions, Congress has done absolutely nothing about banning so-called “bump stocks.” These readily available devices, when attached to a semiautomatic firearm, make a lethal weapon even more deadly by increasing its rate of fire. The Las Vegas shooter had 12 bump stocks with him during his attack. Last month, Massachusetts became the nation’s first state to ban the sale, purchase, or possession of bump stocks.

Yet GOP lawmakers are still pushing to loosen gun restrictions. “If anything, the tragedy in Texas underscores why we need to protect law abiding citizens who choose to defend themselves with a concealed weapon,” said Rep. Richard Hudson, sponsor of the concealed carry bill.

What it really underscores is the GOP’s addiction to the millions it receives from the NRA every year. Among the top 10 career recipients of NRA money in the House, nine of them voted for concealed carry reciprocity. It doesn’t matter that Americans, even a majority of firearm owners, want stricter gun laws. Republican legislators care more about filling their campaign war chests, than carrying out the will of their constituents.

Next Thursday marks the fifth anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre that killed 26, including 20 children. That was supposed to be a watershed moment.

In the days after Newtown, Conn. horror, there was a palpable sense that the nation had changed. Even after Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, and the many other mass shootings that preceded Sandy Hook, this time, we told ourselves, the response would be different. Our politicians would put aside their partisan pettiness and act to protect citizens. Guns that could slaughter so many children had no place on our streets.

“We can’t accept events like this as routine,” said then-President Obama at a vigil. “Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?”

At the time, even Donald Trump agreed with Obama. He tweeted, “President Obama spoke for me and every American in his remarks in #Newtown Connecticut.”

Of course, we now know what we always should have realized – Republicans would never turn their backs on the NRA. The value of human lives is nothing compared to the value of an NRA endorsement. Now citizen Trump turned President Trump is right in GOP lackey lockstep.

At an April NRA speech, he said, “The eight-year assault on your Second Amendment freedoms has come to a crashing end.” Trump called himself a “true friend and champion in the White House,” who would “never, ever infringe on the right of the people to keep and bear arms.”

We have nearly as many guns in America as we have people, and even that isn’t enough for Republican lawmakers. I can’t even begin to imagine the fear this bill instills in domestic violence survivors who crossed state lines to flee their abusers.

Even if concealed carry reciprocity doesn’t make it through the Senate, that won’t likely be the end of it. Nothing is ever enough for GOP legislators convinced that the only cure for our gun violence epidemic is to shoot our way out of it.