Always ‘too soon’

GOP bats down calls for stricter gun laws yet again

Reports about Devin P. Kelley, the man who gunned down churchgoers in a small Texas town this past Sunday, continue to paint a picture of a violent and disturbed man, the kind of person who should not have had access to firearms.

Indeed, Kelley had spent a year in military prison following a court-marshal conviction in 2012 for physically abusing his then-wife and toddler stepson. About two years later, he was discharged for “bad conduct” from the U.S. Air Force. According to police reports in New Mexico, Kelley also had escaped from a mental health facility, after sneaking firearms onto a military base and threatening his commanding officers. Further, he’d been investigated for rape and was cited for animal cruelty.

Still, red flag after red flag didn’t stop him from legally purchasing multiple firearms, including the rifle he used to murder at least 26 parishioners of the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs. As we’ve learned, the Air Force did not enter Kelley’s conviction into a federal database designed to stop those with violent backgrounds from purchasing guns.

The bloody rampage is the deadliest mass shooting in the state’s modern history. Authorities report that there are at least 12 children among the dead, as well as an unborn child whose mother was killed.

When questioned about the incident, the second mass shooting in as many months in which dozens perished, President Trump pointed to it being “a mental health problem.” That tactic to deflect calls for stricter federal gun laws is rich coming from the man who, as one of his first acts as president, gutted an Obama-era initiative aimed at preventing mentally ill people from purchasing guns. That measure, which hadn’t been fully implemented, was taken by the former president following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, an incident in which 20 children were among the 26 victims.

Trump’s nonresponse is what we can expect not only from this White House, but also from the GOP. Last month, after 58 people were slaughtered in Las Vegas, Republican leadership said it was too soon to consider gun legislation. That’s a refrain we can count on from Congress until that legislative body is no longer under the party’s control.