House Speaker Paul Ryan didn’t want to talk about prevention after last week’s massacre at a Florida high school.
“This is one of those moments where we just need to step back and count our blessings,” Ryan said. “We need to think less about taking sides and fighting each other politically, and just pulling together.”
Details about the Florida shooter, who took the lives of 17 students and staff at his former school, are still emerging. The FBI failed to follow up on a tip about the shooter. So drawing conclusions may be premature.
But what about all of the other mass shootings that have shaken our nation in recent years, including the deadliest massacre in modern history that killed 58 and injured more than 500?
Let’s talk about Las Vegas, Mr. Speaker.
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That was five months ago. And the shooter who rained down more than 1,100 bullets from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel onto an outdoor music festival had bump stocks on 12 of his 23 guns, according to police. Bump stocks turn semiautomatic guns into automatic weapons so they keep firing like machine guns. In just 31 seconds, the Las Vegas shooter fired 280 rounds, police said, which is nine bullets per second.
“Fully automatic weapons have been banned for a long time,” Ryan said four days after the Vegas shooting. “Apparently, this allows you to take a semiautomatic and turn it into a fully automatic. So clearly that’s something we need to look into.”
You’ve had plenty of time to look at the stark evidence, Mr. Speaker. And nothing has happened, despite sweeping support for action.
Even the National Rifle Association voiced support for restrictions on bump stocks after the Vegas carnage, calling on federal regulators to apply tougher rules. But relying on bureaucrats to fix the problem hasn’t worked.
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So move the bump stock ban to the House floor, Mr. Speaker. What are you waiting for? You are the most powerful member of the House. Prioritize action, not deflection and excuses. Show that Congress can do at least one small, simple thing to better protect the public against such senseless slaughter.
Banning bump stocks won’t stop the terrible scourge of mass shootings in America. But it will slow some of the deranged killers. It would qualify as progress, something that hasn’t been made in years on this difficult issue.
If Congress can’t get this one tiny thing accomplished when the vast majority of the public and elected officials agree on action, what can Congress do?
Other commonsense measures should be pursued, too, including universal background checks on all gun purchases. Law enforcement should improve databases to track warning signs, tips from the public, and lists of people already barred from purchasing guns because of crimes or severe mental illness. A short delay on gun purchases could provide more time for intervention or second thoughts.
But first, pass a ban on bump stocks. Show that progress is possible. This should be easy, given strong bipartisan support.
Do so now, Mr. Speaker.