WASHINGTON — The track record of Congress is to do relatively nothing in the wake of mass shootings, and after the Las Vegas slaughter — the deadliest in modern U.S. history — let’s see if President Donald Trump, taking on the first massacre of his watch, has something new to offer.
This time it’s at least 59 killed and more than 500 injured by a sniper shooting from a 32nd-floor Las Vegas hotel room filled with a small arsenal of guns and ammunition to a crowd below at a concert.
I never underestimate the ability of Congress to avoid dealing with the tough policy questions stemming from these mass shootings — or smaller examples of gun violence — while still respecting Second Amendment rights about bearing arms.
After every mass shooting there is talk of renewed debate over guns, and then, mainly with Republican resistance, nothing gets done.
With the GOP controlling the White House, Senate and House, there is no reason for any optimism that Las Vegas will bring about any different result.
No more than after the Orlando nightclub bloodbath in 2016, which set the last record with 49 fatalities. Or San Bernardino in 2015, with 14 killed. Or the Charleston church shooting in 2015, with nine dead. Or the Washington Navy Yard rampage in 2013, with 12 slaughtered. Or the Newtown school carnage in 2012 with 28 murdered; 26 dead at the school, not counting the gunman or his mother, whom he apparently killed.
Or at the Sikh temple near Milwaukee in 2012, leaving seven dead. Or the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater shooting, also in 2012, with 12 killed. Or the rampage outside of a Tucson store in 2011 with six deaths. The wounded included then-U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz.
Or the Fort Hood massacre in 2009 with 13 shot. Or the shootings at Northern Illinois University in 2008, killing five. Or the Virginia Tech rampage in 2007 with 32 dead.
Or the Columbine High School shooting in 1999 with 13 massacred — 12 students and a teacher — killed by Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17.
Add to this list House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., shot while at a baseball practice with his GOP team last June. He returned to the House floor only last week.
Even having their own gunned down — Giffords and Scalise — has not motivated lawmakers to pass some legislation dealing with — let’s say in the wake of Las Vegas — why someone can legally purchase so much firepower and not get noticed. Authorities said the Las Vegas shooter, Stephen Paddock, had 23 guns at the hotel, and 19 weapons, explosives and thousands of rounds of ammo at his home.
At the White House briefing on Monday, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked if the Las Vegas massacre made Trump want to pursue tighter gun laws.
“Premature,” for that discussion Sanders said on Monday. But when pressed about whether at some appropriate point Trump would lead some bipartisan effort, Sanders fell on the reliable Trump-era standby — deflecting to Chicago.
“I think if you look to Chicago, where you had over 4,000 victims of gun-related crimes last year, they have the strictest gun laws in the country,” Sanders said. That certainly hasn’t helped there, so I think we have to — when that time comes for those conversations to take place, then I think we need to look at things that may actually have that real impact.”
FACT CHECK: Chicago is among the strictest. Not the strictest. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2010 struck down the city’s handgun ban.
FACT CHECK: While there are no gun shops are in Chicago, there are plenty of places near the city to buy guns. According to City of Chicago data, most illegal guns in Chicago come from Vice President Mike Pence’s Indiana, House Speaker Paul Ryan’s Wisconsin, and Mississippi.
“Rather than take action that could save lives, the Trump administration is in favor of deferring the discussion,” said Adam Collins, a spokesman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Said Collins, “Locally, if the Trump administration wanted to have a credible conversation about gun laws, they’d acknowledge that a huge part of our challenge stems from people taking advantage of Indiana’s lax gun laws — buying guns legally in Indiana, bringing them to the city and reselling them illegally here.”