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Bill Straub: Deja vu all over again — gun massacres, promise of controls, then nothing; repeat rapid fire

All right, let’s break this one down to its component parts.

On the morning of Aug. 3, a gunman, 21-year-old Patrick Crusius, shot and killed 22 people and injured 24 others in El Paso, TX. About 13 hours later, in Dayton, OH, a second gunman shot and killed 10 people and injured 17 others.

The incidents brought to 251 the number of mass shootings that have occurred in the United States of America this year. In the aftermath, it was suggested by those left aghast by the carnage that the federal government might want to take further steps to at least cut down on the possibility of such tragedies occurring over and over again Most anti-gun violence advocates suggested, among other things, strengthening the system of background checks before an individual is allowed to purchase a firearm.

President Trump, aka President Extremely Stable Genius, seemed to agree, asserting in a Tweet, his favored form of communication, “We cannot let those killed in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, die in vain. Likewise for those so seriously wounded. We can never forget them, and those many who came before them. Republicans and Democrats must come together and get strong background checks…”

Mitch McConnell

Even Senate Republican Leader Mitch “Root-‘n-Branch” McConnell, of Louisville, who blanches at the very thought of crossing the National Rifle Association, that gun-loving institution that holds the deed on the Republican Party, publicly stated that the chamber should consider tougher background checks and so-called Red Flag laws that would prohibit those with serious psychological problems from possessing guns.

“Background checks and red flags will probably lead the discussion,” McConnell told WHAS-AM in Louisville, adding, “there’s a lot of support” for background checks and noting, “Those are two items that for sure will be front and center as we see what we can come together on and pass.”

“What we can’t do is fail to pass something,” McConnell said. “What I want to see here is an outcome.”

As is usual in the ongoing gun debate, that was then, this is now.

Our Extreme Stable Genius (ESG) is toning down the background check rhetoric. Earlier this week he pointedly noted, “Background checks — I will say that for the most part, sadly, if you look at the last four or five, going back even five or six or seven years — for the most part, as strong as you make your background checks, they would not have stopped any of it.”

And for his part, after insisting “what we can’t do is fail to pass something,” McConnell, that brave lad, now states he won’t call for a vote on any legislation Trump won’t sign, even though Congress has the ability to override any presidential veto.

To quote Yogi Berra, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”

Have we heard this story before? Dozens of times. Remember back in 2012 when Adam Lanza entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CN, and slaughtered 26 people, including 20 babies between the ages six and seven? By god, we were going to do something about it.

Then nothing. And it’s true of all the other times – Newtown, Parkland, Las Vegas.

Empty promises.


This story, however, suddenly gets a little more complicated. On Aug. 31, Seth Aaron Ator, described as being on “a long spiral down,” shot and killed seven people and injured at least 25 others during a rampage that ranged from Midland to Odessa, TX.

Ator, it now seems, couldn’t pass a background check because he was considered a “prohibited person.” He therefore was barred from purchasing a gun at a dealership because he was considered mentally ill.

“The background check was run through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System,” said John Wester, a special agent for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. “The NIC system did work. He applied to get a gun. He was denied a gun.”

But because of a loophole in the law – one that gun control advocates have spent years trying to close – Ator was able to purchase an assault-style weapon from a private firearms seller who, unlike licensed gun dealers, was not required to run background checks or even ask potential buyers if they are permitted to own weapons.

So it appears, in this case, at least, toughening background checks and extending them to private sellers could have avoided a tragedy.

But it won’t make any difference. The gun nuts have tugged at ESG’s ear and told him he can’t support strengthening background checks because they don’t want him to.

McConnell, also known as Massacre Mitch because of his propensity for bottling up gun control legislation, can play along by gutlessly pointing to the president’s opposition and whining there’s nothing he can do about it.

What Massacre Mitch won’t tell you is that members of his caucus really don’t want to vote on any extension of background checks for fear it will hurt them at the polls. Burying a bill will save them the heartache of doing their jobs, also known as voting.

CNBC reported in August that the NRA spent $1.6 million during the first half of the year lobbying members of the House and Senate against laws that would enact stricter background checks. The House actually passed a measure Massacre Mitch has been blocking. According to Giffords, a gun safety advocacy group named after former Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-AZ, whose congressional career was cut short as a result of a shooting, that bill would “require a background check on every gun sale or transfer, with carefully defined exceptions for gifts to family members, hunting, target shooting, and self-defense.”

It would also “require unlicensed gun sellers to utilize this same system by requiring them to sell or transfer firearms only through licensed dealers.”

So it’s there.

Congress and the president could act. They – meaning Mitch — just don’t want to.

It’s a sad situation, rendered even sadder by the fact that tightening background checks is the least Congress can do. There’s reinstituting the ban on assault weapons or limiting large capacity magazines, both of which would limit the slaughter.

And McConnell is one of the primary reasons. He has made a career of sending gun control legislation to the graveyard. He has, after all, consistently received an “A” rating from the NRA and more than $1.2 million in campaign contributions from the gun folks throughout his political career.

Massacre Mitch has, in an effort to be a comedian, something for which he is particularly ill-suited, embraced the nickname “The Grim Reaper.” His do-nothing approach to gun control gives that title a whole new meaning.

The NKyTribune’s Washington columnist Bill Straub served 11 years as the Frankfort Bureau chief for The Kentucky Post. He also is the former White House/political correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service. A member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, he currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, and writes frequently about the federal government and politics. Email him at williamgstraub@gmail.com.

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  1. Blake Robinson says:

    Because no one wants gun control. Liberal city dwellers love the idea, but the majority of law abiding citizens want to be able to defend themselves from both crime and power hungry politicians. basic principles about how the world works, why is that surprising? People rob and kill others (innocent defenseless people) all the time. and when the government gets too corrupt and power hungry to keep their corruption and avoid a trial for their corruption they take every waking control over the entire population and every piece of their every days lives.
    I would encourage Bill S. to take his front door off, set all of his valuables in sight, and see what happens. He’d be running to buy a gun the next day.
    Some people just need to grow up to understand these kinds of things.
    All you have to do is look at the Hong Kong protests as protesters (protesting big government control) and being beaten to death and sometimes shot to death by the police because they had their guns taken away years ago and can’t defend the little freedoms that still exist for them.

  2. John Webb says:

    But what about the people about to be affected by the hurricane hitting the Carolinas right now? They’re going to be without power for probably a week at least and have little to no response from the police or anyone. They’re not on their own. What happens when looters start to bang down people’s doors to take food and water? How are those people going to defend their lives and children and basic sources of survival if they don’t have guns? The bad guys will still have guns no matter what. What will the law abiding people do?

  3. Roger Auge II says:

    The two comments here are the same B.S. spouted by the NRA. Bad guys are coming, bad guys are coming. We need defense against bad guys. Fomenting fear, in a despicable way. The fact is that with fewer guns in this country, fewer killings would take place. With better care for mentally ill (suicidal) people, there would be fewer killings. I know sensible people who are gun hobbyists. So? Good for them. I am not, I have no interest in ever owning a gun. And certainly I am not afraid enough to think that 911 will not bring a police officer, that my city does not have public officials able to cover me. The ridiculousness of the pro-gun chirpers is they have
    not one ounce of support for their sad more guns philosophy. Subtract fear and guns, and you have peace and calm.

    • John Webb says:

      1) What’s your address and what kinds of valuables do you have in your home? If you don’t give that info out you are a complete and utter hypocrite. Your city will help you out alright….
      2) If you think your city’s “services” will come anywhere close to helping you during a disaster situation or will defend your property from pop-in and out in under 5 minutes crime, then that’s a sad falsehood you live in.
      3) It’s your freedom to put your life and well being in the hands of the government and bureaucrats (who throughout the course of time prove to be 100% inefficient and not good at doing what they’re supposed to do and savagely abuse those they rule over), and it’s MY freedom to own guns under the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution. To protect myself, my family, and my property, and my Rights. Rights that are extremely fragile. Rights the likes of which have never been seen in the history of the world until the USA drew up the Constitution and placed the right to bear arms second to the top.
      You are spewing nonsense and brainwashed from watching MSNBC and rachel maddow or whatever her name is.
      I am going to laugh at the day the cities and counties finally go broke due to their GIGANTIC funding gaps, and your stuck holding a flash light and crying since your “government” isn’t coming to help you.
      The golden days of local government programs has come to an end. All of the handouts and wasted money have driven deficits well beyond a breaking point. The next recession will dissolve local support services and you sir will be by far the furthest from prepared. Keep your Hillary poster hanging above your bed you can have your little safe space as thugs steal your car (if you even have one) and are busting down your front door to take anything you have.
      History repeats itself and you sir will be holding the raw end of it.
      You got me so heated i just donated $2,000 more to the NRA.

    • George Neal says:

      People like Roger Auge is the reason Trump got elected in 2016. Pray he keeps talking and continues to contribute the the Trump 2020 campaign.

      “For the falsely righteous bullies of the 21st century not know they grow the silent majority of the nation, and further embolden the ranks of patriots”.

      “The ignition of overlord dictatorship begins with the disarmament of the people”.

      “The Democratic Socialist’s Playbook: step one take their guns, step two slowly take away all other freedoms, step three make them dependent on “free” stuff, step four starve a suppress them all you want because they can’t fight back since you took their guns and they depend on you for “free” stuff, step five live a lavish, rich, greedy life since you just developed a slave state without weapons or a legit vote.”

  4. Jason says:

    The shooter was diagnosed with metal issues and failed the background check. And the background check caught the fact he was unfit to purchase a firearm. Lying on this form is a felony. Police should have gone to his home and arrested him for committing the felony. He was fired from his job, he also called the FBI and harassed them. He called his local police and harassed them. The background checks worked and there were warning signs everywhere, but as always we need more gun laws right.

  5. Tracy Weider says:

    Precisely, there are more than enough gun laws in place to prevent any type of shooting. It has happened a dozen times in the past few years where an individual was reported as probably going to commit some act of violence yet the “officials/government” never addressed them, and then they run around hacking or shooting people up.
    That’s like saying if we create more laws making Heroin even more illegal to use, then people would stop shooting up. Give me a break.
    A perfect example is when I was with an IT guy who literally had his van stolen in Covington last year during working hours during the day. I was with him during his follow up call with the police and I was blown away with how little they cared or were putting out an effort to try to find the guys stolen $50k van with equipment in it. From there tone and actions being taken they literally could care less. The van was never recovered… The officials and the government are far too inept to help or prevent anything.
    The libs are simply pushing a gun grab, so that we become the next Hong Kong, Venezuela, Argentina, North Korea, Soviet Union, China, etc, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.

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