WASHINGTON — House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said legislation alone can’t prevent school shootings and that the U.S. must also have some kind of serious talk.
McCarthy suggested Congress look into getting “all the information” about the recent shooting at an elementary school in Nashville, Tennessee, but that lawmaking alone can’t solve the problem of mass shootings.
“I would say to the nation as a whole that the problem that we are today is not just going to be a legislation,” McCarthy said. “We got to have a severe conversation here with this country. We’ve got to deal with mental illness.”
The Nashville shooter, armed with military-style assault rifles, killed three 9-year-olds and three teachers before police shot her dead on Monday. It was the deadliest school shooting since a gunman slaughtered 19 students and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, last year.
This week Democrats renewed their calls for criminal background checks on all gun buyers and a ban on assault weapons like the AR-15. Congress previously enacted a ban on such firearms but allowed it to expire in 2004.
“House Democrats believe that weapons of war which are not used to hunt deer but are used to hunt human beings and slaughter innocent children do not belong in our communities,” Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said, saying Republicans should air their views on the House floor.
McCarthy has largely avoided talking about gun control in the wake of the shooting. On Thursday, reporters pressed McCarthy on an assault weapons ban, but he suggested he didn’t think it would work.
“I don’t think one piece of legislation solves this,” he said. “I think a nation together, working together, solves a problem that’s much bigger than us.”
Of course, it’s evident that few Republicans in the House would support any gun control measures, much less a revival of the assault weapon ban.
“There is no gun violence, just like there’s no automobile violence, no airplane violence,” Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) told HuffPost on Thursday, repeating a saying one of his colleagues used this week. “It’s people violence. This is a mental illness issue. The people that commit this kind of horrible crime, it’s a mental illness.”
Gun violence was the leading cause of death among children in the U.S. in 2020, and mass shootings are rarer in countries with less gun ownership than in the U.S.