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Douglas Turner: Congress refuses to halt gun slaughter

Douglas Turner

WASHINGTON – Sometimes the most important news is what is not happening. Just a month after the wanton slaughter of 58 souls by makeshift machine guns in Las Vegas, Nev., the event has slipped from the news cycle.

There’s been no significant reaction from Congress other than an outburst from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and a Facebook post by Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, that he will redirect the $5,000 he received from the National Rifle Association to anti-gun groups. Gillibrand said Congress was “too cowardly” to do anything to control the nation’s epidemic on guns.

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Think of it: Las Vegas, 58 dead and 200 wounded; Orlando, Fla., 49 dead and 50 wounded, 2016; Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va., 32 dead, 2007; Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Conn., 26 killed, 2012; San Bernardino, Calif., 14 killed, 2015; Washington, D.C., Navy Yard, 12 dead, 2013; Aurora, Colo., 12 murdered and 58 wounded, 2012; Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Charleston, S.C., nine murdered, 2015.

All this bloodshed, this madness, has gone spinning off into the ether, thanks to the 24-hour news cycle that cooks up something ever new for us to grind our teeth over – and the new morality of the American public.

Oh, yes, the Republican congressional majority reacted by pulling back – for the time being – a bill allowing gun shops to sell “silencers” or suppressors.

There is a great silencer in this country. And I wish I had thought of this first. But it was a medical doctor, John Herring, writing in the Dallas Morning News, who said that the new definition of “silencer” is the National Rifle Association “and its ardent followers.”

Among the NRA’s “ardent followers” are President Trump and Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., who was nearly killed June 14 by a sniper while the congressman and others were practicing for a baseball game. Three weeks earlier, Scalise sponsored an NRA-backed bill relaxing federal and state laws that purported to limit legal trafficking of firearms.

Another “ardent” follower is Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence. On July 31 he introduced a bill to void much of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s legislation limiting the sale of firearms and the size of magazines. Collins would actually limit the right of all states to control sales of firearms. But neither bill seems to be going anywhere – at the moment.

Yet, some who remember then Rep. Charles Schumer’s successful 1993 campaign to ban assault weapon sales for 10 years looked to him to lead a charge against the proliferation of assault weapons in the wake of the Las Vegas massacre, the worst in the nation’s modern history. Apparently, not now, not this time.

The Hill, a reliable Capitol Hill blog, quoted Schumer, now the Senate minority leader, as saying last Wednesday that he does not want minority Democrats tangled up in a debate over guns with the 2018 midterm elections in the forefront. Democrats, Schumer said, should concentrate on issues such as tax reform, health care and spending issues, The Hill said.

A new Gallup survey said 61 percent of those surveyed said gun control would be “an important factor” in how they vote in the off-year 2018 elections. This is a mass, national tally and does not account for how the NRA, and the dozens of allied and heavily funded organizations at the state and local level, can intervene and defeat a non-compliant Democrat.

It is hard, though, not to remember how strongly the Democrats in 2010, backed by then President Barack Obama, first attacked the Supreme Court’s disgraceful Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling, which opened the gates to secret unlimited campaign contributions by major corporate and union donors. The Democrats took a few swipes at Citizens United, and then the ruling – which may have been the most destructive of the court’s modern era – slipped into oblivion.

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