Editorial: Mitch's summer vacation
By Richard Gaw
H.R. 8 would create new universal background check requirements for gun transfers between unlicensed individuals.
H.R. 1112 calls for a tightening of background check procedures to be followed before a Federal firearms licensee may transfer a firearm to a person who is not such a licensee.
Both these bipartisan bills were passed by the House in February of this year, and have received the support of 90 percent of Americans.
Both have been blocked from a Senate vote by Senate Majority Mitch McConnell for more than 160 days. There is good news, however; McConnell said that he would put these laws “front and center” when the Senate reconvenes from its summer vacation in September.
That's one month away. With this country's current track record on mass shootings, one fears that another violent tragedy may occur by the hands of a gunman who purchases a firearm without a sufficient background check.
Last week, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which includes 214 mayors from around the country, sent a letter to McConnell, demanding that he immediately call the Senate back into session to pass H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, and H.R. 1112, the Enhanced Background Checks Act.
“This inaction must stop,” the letter read. “We know background checks save lives. Every day background checks stop more than 170 felons and 50 domestic abusers from getting a gun. Any delay to pass common sense gun violence prevention legislation only increases the chances that more innocent people in America may suffer from the tragic and needless loss caused by gun violence.”
The mayors were not alone in condemning McConnell for his inaction. Pennsylvania Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey also unloaded their vitriol, calling for McConnell to get the Senate immediately back into session.
“Enough,” Casey wrote. “We don’t have to live like this. Politicians who refuse to take action to reduce gun violence are complicit in this carnage. If we’re going to truly confront this uniquely American problem, we have to speak uncomfortable truths.
“Over and over again, domestic terrorists use high powered, military-style assault weapons to kill our children and our families. There are a whole range of steps that must be taken. Congress’s first priority must be passing universal background checks, limiting the size of magazines and banning military-style assault weapons, among other measures.”
This inactivity particularly galled Toomey, a Republican. In 2013, he introduced a bipartisan piece of legislation with West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat, that would require background checks on most private part firearm sales. The Manchin-Toomey Amendment was voted on and defeated on April 17, 2013 by a vote of 54–46.
In another act of bipartisanship, Toomey and Chris Coons (D-Del.) released a statement on Aug. 6, in support of bipartisan congressional action known as the NICS Denial Notification Act, which provides states with critical information to help them enforce existing laws against individuals who attempt to purchase firearms but have no legal right to do so.
The act would require federal authorities to alert state law enforcement within 24 hours when individuals "lie and try" to purchase firearms, which can be a warning sign of additional criminal behavior.
“The only way to make necessary progress on improving the
nation's gun safety laws is through bipartisan action,” the statement read.
“Strengthening our firearm background check system is an area where this is
possible. In addition to expanding the scope of background checks, Congress
should promptly pass the bipartisan
NICS Denial Notification Act
to ensure that state and local law enforcement are notified when someone
prohibited from purchasing a gun attempts to do so."
While McConnell enjoys his summer vacation, it remains unthinkable as to why he will not interrupt it for the sake of American lives, but we have come to expect this behavior in our Senate Majority leader. This Son of Kentucky has become the saloon keeper of a nation he in conspiring to turn into the OK Corral, and right now the bar reeks of booze, sweat, lawlessness and hubris. He really has no intention of bringing responsible laws concerning gun safety to a vote, and why should he? McConnell is having too much fun at the saloon, soaking in the booze of the $1.26 million in contributions he’s received from the National Rifle Association*, at the same time the NRA has spent $1.6 million during the first half of this year lobbying Congress against laws that would enact stricter background checks for people looking to purchase firearms.
In 2014, McConnell was the recipient of the NRA’s “Defender of Freedom” award. During his remarks, he said, “The liberal establishment in Washington doesn’t understand Kentucky values and it doesn’t want to. That’s why I’ve been one of the biggest champions of protecting our constitutional right to bear arms. ... So as long as Washington attacks our heritage, I’ll fight back.”
In the end though, we can be assured that Mitch McConnell truly cares about the safety of the American people, and he's proven it by putting his empathy for the victims of these most recent shootings front and center. On Aug. 3 at 3:59 p.m., the day of the El Paso shootings, he tweeted that he and his wife's “prayers go out to the victims of this terrible violence.”
*Data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics