Guns out of con­trol

Florida con­gress­man says it’s time for Con­gress to break free of NRA.

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - Front Page - By Ted Deutch

Gath­er­ing on the House Floor to mark gun vi­o­lence tragedies has be­come a com­mon rit­ual. In the 477 days be­tween the Pulse night­club shoot­ing in Or­lando that left 49 dead and the Las Ve­gas shoot­ing that left 58 dead and over 500 in­jured, there were 521 mass shoot­ings in Amer­ica.

So when, again and again and again, I bow my head and choke back tears, I can’t help but feel grow­ing anger know­ing that mo­ments of si­lence are the be­gin­ning and end of the con­gres­sional re­sponse to thou­sands of Amer­i­cans be­ing gunned down in the streets.

Of­fer­ing “thoughts and prayers” with­out any sub­stan­tive pol­icy de­bate about how to re­duce gun vi­o­lence is part of a plan de­signed and im­ple­mented by the NRA and the gun­mak­ers that fund it. The gun in­dus­try con­trols the Repub­li­can agenda on guns. It’s true in Washington and it’s true in Tal­la­has­see, where some of the most dan­ger­ous laws are rammed through.

It wasn’t al­ways this way. It has been nearly 30 years since mod­er­ate Repub­li­cans joined most Democrats to pass the Brady Hand­gun Vi­o­lence Preven­tion Act. Even Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan, an NRA mem­ber, ul­ti­mately sup­ported the bill after leav­ing the White House. Since that time the NRA has tight­ened its grip on the GOP.

To­day’s NRA is dom­i­nated by gun cor­po­ra­tions, not its mem­bers, and it an­i­mates only the most ex­treme voices and poli­cies. Their de­vo­tion to wealthy gun com­pany ex­ec­u­tives leaves them with no reser­va­tions about spread­ing lies and pro­mot­ing fear that gun safety ad­vo­cates want to take away their guns.

This most re­cent tragedy high­lighted the Repub­li­can go-to play­book on gun vi­o­lence. After thoughts and prayers for the vic­tims, GOP law­mak­ers first claimed that it is too soon to dis­cuss so­lu­tions and later claimed noth­ing can be done to save lives.

Two NRA A+ rated se­na­tors ex­e­cuted their roles per­fectly. Sen. James In­hofe (R-OK) blamed so­called sanc­tu­ary cities in an at­tempt to scape­goat im­mi­grants for a crime com­mit­ted by a na­tive-born Amer­i­can cit­i­zen.

An­other GOP se­na­tor, John Thune of South Dakota, lamented that it is “hard to pre­vent any­thing.” He sug­gested that it would be the re­spon­si­bil­ity of vic­tims to pro­tect them­selves and “get small.”

Did these se­na­tors watch the video of the shoot­ing? Did they hear the nine rounds per sec­ond rain­ing down from the sky? “Get small” is not a so­lu­tion. It’s cruel. His re­marks make clear that the moral courage of gun in­dus­try-backed Repub­li­cans in Con­gress couldn’t get any smaller.

GOP ob­struc­tion is of­ten paired with NRA lies about the ef­fec­tive­ness of stronger gun laws. In fact, we can do some­thing to make our com­mu­ni­ties safer. Other coun­tries have done it. In Aus­tralia, a coun­try with its own proud gun cul­ture, a 1996 mass shoot­ing in­spired its leg­is­la­ture to get to work. They bro­kered com­pro­mises, they strength­ened their laws, and they have suc­cess­fully re­duced gun vi­o­lence (1.4 homi­cides per mil­lion peo­ple com­pared to 29.7 in the U.S.).

Con­gress could pass com­mon­sense gun safety laws that would save lives and make our streets safer: re­in­state the as­sault weapons ban, pre­vent mod­i­fi­ca­tions that en­able sim­u­lated au­to­matic fire, ban high ca­pac­ity mag­a­zines, pro­hibit sales to known ter­ror­ists, and re­quire univer­sal back­ground checks to keep guns out of the hands of crim­i­nals and those with men­tal ill­ness.

Un­for­tu­nately, our ur­gent pri­or­ity must be to block the cur­rent dan­ger­ous Ryan/McCon­nell/NRA gun agenda. Grim pri­or­i­ties in Washington like le­gal­iz­ing over-the­counter sales of si­lencers and ar­mor pierc­ing bul­lets and forc­ing the recog­ni­tion of out-of-state con­cealed carry per­mits must be stopped. In Tal­la­has­see, bills al­low­ing guns on our col­lege cam­puses and open carry in our com­mu­ni­ties must also be stopped. Ev­ery one of these ef­forts, in Washington and Tal­la­has­see, puts more peo­ple at risk.

Next, we must en­gage in a mean­ing­ful de­bate about any steps we can take to re­duce gun vi­o­lence. We’ve al­ready wasted too much time while in­no­cent Amer­i­cans have paid the price with their lives. It’s time to start a real con­ver­sa­tion and break the stran­gle­hold of the NRA.

Con­gress­man Ted Deutch rep­re­sents Florida’s 22nd dis­trict, home to com­mu­ni­ties in south­ern Palm Beach County and Broward County.

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