Pensacola, Florida
Saturday August 24th 2019

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Outtakes—Stop the Massacres

By Rick Outzen

More massacres and more calls for gun reform. Since the Pulse nightclub shooting that left 49 dead, we’ve had mass shootings in Las Vegas (58 dead); Sutherland, Texas (26); Parkland, Fla. (17); Santa Fe, Texas (10); Pittsburgh, Pa. (11); Thousand Oaks, Calif. (12); Virginia Beach, Va. (12); El Paso, Texas (22); and Dayton, Ohio (9).

That’s a total of 177 deaths in a little more than three years, and I’m not including shootings at the Capital Gazette, a Nashville Waffle House and a SunTrust branch in Sebring, Fla.

In March 2019, the White House banned “bump stocks,” which allow semiautomatic rifles to mimic automatic weapons, in response to the October 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas involving a rifle modified with a bump stock. But more reforms were on the table.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has delayed votes on two bills that would strengthen background checks on gun purchases. Both bills, H.R. 8 and H.R. 1112, were passed by 50-vote margins in February of this year.

H.R. 8 aimed to close a loophole allowing the transfer of firearms without a background check at gun shows or between individuals by requiring background checks for most person-to-person firearm transfers. H.R. 1112 focused on extending the length of time firearms dealers must wait for a response from the background check system before the sale can proceed from three days to at least 10 days.

McConnell didn’t refer the bipartisan bills to the appropriate committee where they could be debated before possibly making it to the full Senate for a floor vote. No, he placed the measures on the Senate calendar, a political trick that essentially put the legislation in limbo.

House Democrats have asked the Majority Leader to call the Senate back to D.C. and vote on the bills. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) has asked President Trump to apply pressure to McConnell for a stand-alone vote on the background check legislation.

The good news is Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) have reached a bipartisan deal to push through a “red flag” gun bill to encourage states to adopt laws known as “Red Flag Protection Orders” that would empower them to intervene in situations where authorities believe there is an imminent threat of violence. It’s a step in the right direction.

However, the Majority Leader could do more. In 1994, Congress banned the manufacture and sale to civilians of assault-style weapons and certain “large-capacity” ammunition magazines for guns. The ban lapsed in 2004. McConnell could sponsor legislation to reinstate it.

The political games need to stop, and serious reform must take place. Otherwise, the massacres will continue.