Act now on guns

It’s the perfect time for Congress to debate gun restrictions

Many congressional Republicans are responding to calls for stricter gun laws by saying it’s premature to take up the issue. Chief among them is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said this week that, given the massacre in Las Vegas happened only a few days earlier, it’s “inappropriate” to talk about legislative solutions, “if there are any.”

Our question: What the hell is he waiting for—yet another mass shooting and additional lives lost to gun violence?

Of course, we know the game plan of his ilk. First, stall. That’s what he and other Congress members are doing by saying it’s too soon to start a debate. Second, rely on voter apathy. Americans have notoriously short attention spans and once the headlines have subsided, so too will the most strident calls for change. And finally, if all else fails, sabotage. The latter is a tactic employed by Senate Republicans after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that claimed the lives of 20 children.

Recall the no-brainer, bipartisan bill that sought to expand background checks to cover weapon sales at gun shows and on the Internet. That effort—the so-called Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act (aka the Manchin-Toomey amendment, so named for Sens. Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey, a Democrat and Republican, respectively)—died for a lack of support after the GOP threatened a filibuster.

What’s worse, as The Atlantic Senior Editor David Frum pointed out this week, is that massacres such as the one that unfolded in Las Vegas actually spur less-restrictive policy. Frum noted that a host of mostly red states have done that very thing in the wake of Sandy Hook. Georgia, for example, in 2014 expanded the list of locations those with a concealed carry permit can bring their firearms to include school classrooms and airports, among other places. Frum further pointed to research out of Harvard University backing up claims that mass shootings loosen gun laws.

Over the next few months, the GOP will counter the calls for a debate on tighter gun laws by saying Democrats are attempting to politicize the issue. It’s a deflection tactic, nothing more. Not taking up this issue is a slap in the face not only to the loved ones of the victims of the Las Vegas massacre, but to everyone who has suffered as a result of gun violence.

Congress should immediately begin talks about common-sense gun restrictions. The time to act is now.