Political legislation and reactions to prominent mass shootings

by mcardinal

Lauren Moye, FISM News


In the wake of high-profile mass shootings and with mid-term elections drawing closer, Democrats and Republicans are sparring over the proper actions to take to prevent mass shootings. However, not all legislation being put forward is drawn strictly along party lines.

When accessing all the competing views, it becomes necessary to have a firm understanding of facts. Unfortunately, the extreme politicization of mass shootings, as well as the initial information which is often inaccurate or incomplete, can cause additional confusion when assessing lawmakers’ legislation proposals. 

For example, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer recently referenced armed school officers at Robb Elementary School who let the shooter pass. The senator’s comment was based on information that the school resource officer confronted the shooter outside the school. However, it has since been revealed that the officer was off campus at the time the shooter was called in, and there was no confrontation.

This new information completely undermines Schumer’s stated reason for rejecting a Republican-backed bill that would have created a national clearinghouse that provides the most up-to-date school security policies and grant information. Similarly, an understanding of how the media helped promote a false view of how prevalent mass shootings are in America is also necessary for careful consideration of any views presented.

Republicans and Democrats engage in bipartisan efforts to curb gun violence and school shootings

This week lawmakers from both parties are engaging in bipartisan discussions on how to reduce gun violence and school shootings. On the table, according to Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), are universal background checks, red flag laws, gun storage rules, limiting high-capacity magazines, and “school hardening measures.” While Republicans and Democrats aren’t likely to agree on some issues, the point of the discussion is to find common ground that can be swiftly enacted.

Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) said to the press after Thursday’s meeting, “I thought the meeting was very constructive and went well. We identified some issues, and we’ll continue to work over the recess, and I am hopeful that we can come together on a package that will make a difference.”

The most prominent compromise option is red flag legislation that would prevent mentally unstable individuals from purchasing weapons. These measures have already gained both Democrat and Republican support in various forms. In 2018, Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) cosponsored the Federal Extreme Risk Protection Order Act.

Last year, in another bipartisan effort, Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), and Angus King (I-Maine) released their own red flag act called the Extreme Risk Protection Order and Violence Prevention Act. Scott had previously signed an almost identical bill into Florida law while acting as the state’s governor.

Neither of these efforts have gained enough traction to pass so far – with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle blocking them – but the recent shooting has left some hopeful they will gain renewed interest. 

“We’ve come close to a red flag statute,” Blumenthal said after Thursday’s meeting. He added that he thinks “there’s common ground on a red flag statute.”

Democratic Response

While the majority of Democrats are not shamelessly hijacking police press briefings to advocate for stricter gun control laws, as Beto O’Rourke did on Thursday, there are still plenty of eyebrow-raising moments. 

Despite the efforts taken by lawmakers to craft a bipartisan gun bill, Democrats overall have continued to portray Republicans as the party of bloodshed and violence.

On Thursday, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez blasted Republicans and moderate Democrats alike for being “complicit in the violence” by not removing the filibuster that keeps holding up gun control laws, adding that “all this blood is spilling.”

In Thursday’s press conference, top White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre helped continue this narrative by implying partisan politics prevented laws from passing: “So I ask, how is protecting our children a partisan issue?  How is preventing innocent people from being slaughtered controversial? Common sense gun safety laws work.”

However, it was Democratic leader Schumer who blocked legislation to codify the school safety clearinghouse. While the bill would not force any school to adopt recommended safety policies, Schumer took to Twitter to erroneously claim Republicans were promoting a law to put even more guns into schools.

While the usual party-smearing is expected, some Democrats have taken their responses to a new level of politicization, piggybacking off of the deaths of children to promote popular liberal ideas like abortion rights and packing the Supreme Court.

Senator Ed Markey said in a speech touching on the Uvalde tragedy, “We have to take very seriously the threat which an illegitimate, far-right Supreme Court poses to gun safety in our country. We have to expand the Supreme Court to get back the two stolen seats that the Republicans & Donald Trump took.”

Meanwhile, Representative Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) tied gun control laws to abortion rights in a profane tweet to Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tex.): “F*** you @tedcruz you care about a fetus but you will let our children get slaughtered. Just get your ass to Cancun. You are useless.”

AOC also slammed Republicans for their supposed hypocrisy on Twitter: “There is no such thing as being ‘pro-life’ while supporting laws that let children be shot in their schools, elders in grocery stores, worshippers in their houses of faith, survivors by abusers, or anyone in a crowded place. It is an idolatry of violence. And it must end.”

Republican lawmakers call for “school hardening”

Some Republicans have called for “school hardening,” a term that means improving security measures at school. While some engaging in the bipartisan talks, like Cruz, advocate for school hardening while entertaining some additional federal firearm laws, others have positioned school hardening as an alternative to restricting gun owner rights.

“When 9/11 happened, we didn’t ban planes. We secured the cockpits,” Representative Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) told Fox News on Thursday.

School hardening measures include creating a single point of entry, armed security on campuses, metal detectors, and strong exterior fencing. In the past, Democrats blocked a 2013 bill that would have provided funding for schools to improve security measures, including placing things like bullet-resistant windows and doors.

Republican Congressman Clay Higgins of Louisiana reintroduced two bills on Thursday that would help improve school security if passed: the School Resource Officer Assessment Act, meant to collect national data on resource officers, and the School Watch and Tactics Act to improve resource officer training.