In the few short days since twin massacres in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, this much has become clear: Too many politicians of all stripes have tried to use the tragedies to their advantage by casting blame, and yet few seem willing to engage in the hard work that will create forward movement toward real solutions.
The clock is ticking, yet lawmakers seem content to lob verbal assaults at each other from afar. Both the House and Senate remain in recess, and the president seems content with making speeches rather than using the clout of his office to pressure lawmakers into action.
This is unacceptable. It is a failure of representation.
In the United States, politicians rarely lead on such issues without popular opinion. But there is plenty of evidence the American people want lawmakers to do more than cast blame on this issue.
Even before the latest shootings, polls have shown Americans support requiring stronger background checks for gun sales. A Gallup pollfound 92% in favor of such checks before all sales, and 68% in favor of increasing the minimum age for gun purchases from 18 to 21.
A Rasmussen Reports survey found 51% agreeing that it’s too easy to purchase a gun. A Washington Post pollfound 85% in favor of so-called red flag laws that would remove guns from people deemed to be risks.
Although not every proposed solution would have prevented each specific mass shooting, these are raw evidences of public sentiment toward a variety of approaches. It’s up to politicians to mold them into legislative solutions that are not only politically palatable but also effective.
But they can’t do this if they remain in recess.
On Monday, we called for the president to convene high-level meetings with the nation’s four top legislative leaders — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer — and to put Vice President Mike Pence in charge of the group.
The idea was for these five to hammer out effective and workable solutions to curb the epidemic of mass shootings in the United States, and in a way that could pass both houses of Congress. We gave them 21 days. Here’s what they had done as of Thursday:
- Pelosi initially resisted calls to reconvene the House, but now says she’s open to it. However, her main focus has been to call on the Senate to reconvene and pass background-check legislation the House passed in February.
- McCarthy has suggested video games deserve blame for the violence, attracting scorn from some Democrats.
- McConnell has resisted calls to bring the Senate back from vacation, although he has urged Republicans to “engage in bipartisan discussions." He also indicated in an interview Thursday he is willing to consider expanding background checks. Still, his standard position is to refuse to bring major legislation to the floor unless majority support already exists.
- Schumer has accused the president of having priorities that are “un-American” and “off balance,” while urging McConnell to reconvene.
- President Trump has condemned white supremacy and racism, and he has tweeted hints that he supports strong background checks, but he has done nothing to bring legislative leaders together.
This amounts to a lot of talk and no action, while party members on both sides have sought political advantage by suggesting their opponents’ rhetoric was to blame for the shootings.
The shooter in El Paso is suspected of writing a manifesto that mimicked far-right, white supremacist rhetoric. The shooter in Dayton posted Democratic attacks on the president in his social media posts.
Ultimately, however, the shooters themselves are responsible for their own actions.
Americans may be divided on many of the solutions and proposals to address mass shootings in America, but they are in consensus on much more than their representatives seem to acknowledge.
Time is ticking. People want action, not rhetoric and blame.