As more Americans than ever are telling lawmakers they want to see action on gun control legislation, the Republican-controlled Congress has stalled, indicating that they’re unlikely to do anything on the issue at all.
It’s been nearly three weeks since a school shooting in Parkland, Florida, reinvigorated the debate on gun reform. Seventeen individuals within the walls of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school were shot and killed, with dozens more injured, on Feb. 14.
Students who survived the massacre, as well as others across the country, took it upon themselves to organize calls for reforming our nation’s gun laws — specifically banning assault rifles and strengthening background checks for all purchases. Some organizations, including Dick’s Sporting Goods and other retailers, voluntarily removed certain weapons from their shelves and instituted age limits for gun purchases.
Clearly, more needs to be done. Unfortunately, calls for change in Washington D.C. are falling on deaf ears. Lawmakers in our nation’s capital aren’t likely to take up the call for stricter laws limiting access to dangerous weapons.
Republican lawmakers seemingly want to focus on other matters, and they see the issue itself as making it difficult to continue the “wave” they had been riding in late December, following passage of a tax reform bill and watering down requirements of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. Lawmakers also see no point in renewing a push for requiring background checks and closing the gun show loophole since they had voted it down in the past.
“We have voted that down before, so I don’t know why we would need to have that vote again unless something’s changed,” Sen. John Thune (R-South Dakota) said, according to The Hill.
But the attitudes of most Americans, revealed in recent polling on the subject, demonstrate that Republicans are thwarting the collective demands of the citizenry. More than four out of five Americans support requiring private gun sales and sales conducted at gun shows subject to background checks, according to a recent Politico/Morning Consult poll. The same number wants the age limit on all gun sales across the country raised to 21, and nearly seven-in-10 want assault rifles (like the AR-15 used in most mass shootings) banned outright.
Lawmakers in Washington, and specifically those within the GOP, are standing in the way of a debate on guns as well as several votes on reforms. Their reasoning for doing so is likely twofold.
First, it allows them to cement support from the National Rifle Association, making it likely that their financial backing of these lawmakers will continue into the foreseeable future. Second, without an actual vote, lawmakers are probably hoping their constituents will be oblivious to their true attitudes (and alliances with the gun lobby) come November.
Yet pushes from students in high schools across the country, in addition to continued dissatisfaction from voters on this and other issues, may create the opposite outcome that Republicans are hoping for — rendering a bigger splash in the “blue wave” that political scientists are predicting in the months ahead.