WASHINGTON ― Days after a heavily armed killer opened fire on 22,000 people at a country music festival in Las Vegas, killing 58 and injuring hundreds more, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) asked a maddening question on the Senate floor: “How many of these can you have before you say enough is enough?”
The answer, it appears after a gunman opened fire on a Sunday church service in Sutherland Springs, Texas, is at least one more.
Mass shootings are becoming more frequent and deadly. Four of the five deadliest mass shootings in modern U.S. history all happened in the past five years. Two of those shootings ― in Las Vegas last month, and in Sutherland Springs on Sunday, occurred in the last 36 days.
The scenes of mass murder are part of everyday American life: a church, an elementary school, a nightclub, a concert. The tool of death: remarkably consistent.
Congress, however, has been paralyzed and has failed to take any meaningful action to curb gun violence. The only policy response to mass shootings, as The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza put it, has been to lower the flags on federal property to half-staff.
The stars and stripes have been lowered so frequently atop the White House it’s getting hard to tell which tragedy we’re mourning.
Most Republicans say gun violence is the price of freedom. In the wake of Las Vegas, HuffPost asked Senate Republicans to identify ways that Congress could help prevent mass shootings in America. They struggled with an answer, and some argued there was no point in government trying to do so.
“I don’t know if legislation can [prevent mass shootings]. We cry that everything is a government problem and a government solution. But everything is not,” Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said last month.
Even the narrowest policy solutions have gone nowhere. After Las Vegas, many Republicans pledged to ban bump stocks, devices that make semi-automatic weapons function like machine guns. Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock, 64, was found with a dozen firearms retrofitted with such devices. One month after the shooting, however, bump stocks are still legal and are back on the market.
Now that the nation has moved on to another mass shooting, one that didn’t involve bump stocks, the issue is likely to be left behind entirely.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a vocal advocate for gun control in the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school shooting, on Sunday reacted to feelings of helplessness that Americans experience in the wake of repeated massacres.
“The paralysis you feel right now ― the impotent helplessness that washes over you as news of another mass slaughter scrolls across the television screen ― isn’t real. It’s a fiction created and methodically cultivated by the gun lobby,” Murphy said in a statement.
Murphy, who recently introduced a bill to strengthen background checks on gun purchases, called Congress “cowardly” and challenged colleagues to act.
“As my colleagues go to sleep tonight, they need to think about whether the political support of the gun industry is worth the blood that flows endlessly onto the floors of American churches, elementary schools, movie theaters, and city streets,” Murphy said. “Ask yourself ― how can you claim that you respect human life while choosing fealty to weapons-makers over support for measures favored by the vast majority of your constituents.”