Mass shootings continue but McConnell won’t allow gun-control vote

The New London Day

The seventh anniversary of the shooting that jolted the nation is fast approaching. On Dec. 14, 2012 an emotionally and psychologically troubled 20-year-old blasted his way into the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown and used a semi-automatic assault rifle to quickly kill six adult educators and 20 children before shooting himself.

The timing just before Christmas, the age of the child victims — first graders — and the overall horror of the event seemed to galvanize the country about the all-too-common threat of mass shootings like no other shooting before it. Yet while Connecticut and several others states would go on to pass reasonable gun control measures in response, the pro-gun lobby in Washington held fast in its control of Congress with no federal laws enacted.

In the seven years since the carnage has continued, including in October 2017 the unthinkable killing of 58 people and wounding of 413 in an attack on concert goers by a man armed with a personal arsenal and perched on the 32nd floor of a Las Vegas hotel. But still no gun control was passed by Congress.

Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who at the time of the Sandy Hook shooting was a U.S. representative for the district that includes Newtown, has become a leader of the gun-control movement. The Democrat was newly elected to the Senate, but not yet sworn-in, when the shooting occurred.

Another outspoken advocate for sensible gun-reform legislation has been Connecticut’s senior senator, Richard Blumenthal, also a Democrat.

How tragically appropriate, then, that the two senators were again trying to move gun reform law legislation forward when yet another school shooting happened.

“We can’t go 24 hours without news of another mass shooting somewhere in America,” Murphy said in a speech to the Senate last Thursday. “My kids and millions of others hide in corners of their classroom or in their bathrooms preparing for a mass shooting at their school and this body does nothing about it.”

Murphy was pushing the U.S. Senate to vote on H.R. 8, a bill the Democratic-led U.S. House approved in February. It would require universal background checks by closing loopholes that allow certain gun sales — at gun shows, over the internet, or from private dealers — that are now completed without background checks, allowing guns to get into the hands of people who would otherwise be prohibited from owning them.

The measure has overwhelming public support, according to polls.

Murphy did not know at the time that another school shooting was underway as he spoke, at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, Calif. A 16-year-old boy, on his birthday, shot several students, killing a 15-year-old girl and 14-year-old boy. The shooter later died of a self-inflicted gunshot.

The Senate then learned of the Santa Clarita shooting during Blumenthal’s address in support of Murphy's motion.

“As I speak on the (Senate) floor right now,” said Blumenthal, after having been handed a note, “There is a shooting in Santa Clarita, California. How can we turn the other way? How can we refuse to see that shooting, in real time, demanding our attention, requiring our action?”

But ignore it the Senate majority did. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has blocked any gun-reform legislation from being debated and voted on in the Senate. Frustrated at being stonewalled so long by McConnell, Murphy had tried to force a vote by asking for unanimous consent. A procedural move by a Republican senator quickly dispensed of Murphy's effort.

It is possible, even likely, that universal background checks would not have prevented the Saugus High shooting. No one bill is going to solve the crisis of gun violence. But that does not justify blocking debate and a vote on a bill that would keep guns out of the hands of some bad people and save some lives. Maybe many lives.

On Sunday night came another mass shooting, this at a football party in Fresno, Calif., resulting in the killing of four young men and the wounding of six others.

And so, it continues.

Keep up the good fight, senators, until the time McConnell can be moved to action or removed from his majority leader position.