National view: Even congressional wimps can take these 3 steps
A 64-year-old white man, a millionaire gambler who owned a total of 47 guns, rents a Las Vegas hotel suite and sprays 22,000 country music fans with hundreds of bullets, leaving nearly 600 people slaughtered or grievously wounded.
What happens next?
A. Politicians offer thoughts and prayers.
B. The White House, the National Rifle Association, and Republican leaders in Congress insist now is not the time to talk about curtailing gun violence in America.
C. Just about everyone agrees nothing concrete will happen.
D. All of the above.
You are correct. It's D.
No matter what happens, Congress keeps refusing every effort at even moderate gun controls.
Until the Nevada massacre, the House was moving toward loosening controls on silencers and suppressors. Donald Trump Jr. made a video to persuade politicians that silencers are fun, even for children.
Nationwide, sales of $50 so-called bump stocks are soaring. The devices let gun owners turn legal semi-automatic guns into illegal automatics, de facto machine guns that were ostensibly outlawed in 1986. The Las Vegas murderer used 12 bump stocks to speed up his assault rifles.
Congress has refused to computerize gun registration. (We now know one overworked ATF agent in West Virginia has a card file he must manually go through to try to trace the history of any suspect gun.) There are 300 million guns in private hands in America.
Congress let a ban on assault weapons expire.
Congress has refused to toughen background checks on gun buyers.
Open-carry gun laws are proliferating. You can carry guns openly on some college campuses. Into many churches. On many public streets. In your car. Congress now and then considers expanding on this.
After every mass shooting, gun manufacturers' profits rise. The stock prices of such companies rose after Las Vegas.
The NRA put $26 million in the 2016 elections. Most Republican politicians are terrified of losing NRA support and facing defeat at the polls.
The NRA, which used to stand for responsible gun controls, now sees any move to protect people from guns as the camel's nose under the tent. The NRA whips owners up into a frenzy, painting a nightmare scenario in which jackbooted government thugs raid your house at midnight, confiscating all your guns and leaving you defenseless against marauding hoards.
Incidentally, the most influential person in the gun industry in America is a reclusive New York billionaire financier, Stephen Feinberg, who invests in gun manufacturing, owns a company called Cerberus and is a big military contractor in Afghanistan. Oddly, his profits had been declining under President Donald Trump because gun buyers slowed their purchases, assured he'd never push gun control. One of the first laws Trump signed permitted 75,000 people deemed too mentally ill to manage their financial affairs to buy guns.
After a lone gunman killed 20 6- and 7-year-olds and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012, at least 70 percent of Americans said they favored legislation to prevent such horror from ever happening again. Congress refused to act.
A year ago, 49 people were killed at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando. Congress refused to act.
Every year there are about 350 mass shootings in America. Every day 85 people die in the United States from gun shots. The U.S. has six times more gun deaths than Canada and 16 times more gun violence than Germany. With 5 percent of the world's population, the United States has 30 percent of all mass shootings.
The NRA famously proclaimed, "Guns don't kill people. People kill people."
True. People kill lots of people. With lots of guns.
Millions of thoughts. Millions of prayers. But no new gun controls from Congress even though two of its own, Gabrielle Giffords and Steve Scalise, were shot in mass shootings and nearly died.
Why does anyone besides a soldier in war need an automatic gun that shoots bullets that tear through armor and eviscerate humans and animals?
When is the right time to discuss this? Not now, said the White House. Not now, said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. It's "premature" to think about more gun control, said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
If not now, after the worst mass shooting in U.S. history — to date — then when?
Our congressional wimps should at least ban bump stocks, toughen background checks and computerize records.
Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.