Congress has dithered long enough on guns

How many more will it take?

How many more mass shootings?

How many more bodies of adults and children will need to pile up – in the aisles of retail stores, in churches, in the classrooms and corridors of schools, in offices, in movie theaters, in nightclubs?

How many more times must this happen before our leaders in Washington, D.C., do what is so long overdue and work on solutions – and not brush off any discussion because it’s too soon after a tragedy to “engage in politics”?

How many more massacres need to occur before Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who alone decides what will be voted on in the Senate, allows members to cast their “yea” or “nay” votes on modest gun-control legislation that already has been approved by a bipartisan majority in the U.S. House?

How much longer must we wait?

And how much longer must parents and school children live in mortal fear they will be met by another maniac armed with a semi-automatic killing machine fed by jumbo magazines of ammo?

Normally, a weekend morning in early August is a time when parents and grandparents, with eager kids in tow, shop for notebooks and crayons and clothes for a new school year that is fast approaching.

That’s the kind of day it was Saturday morning in El Paso, Texas, at a Walmart store that was filled with shoppers.

No one goes out to do back-to-school shopping with fears of mass murder.

But they will now.

A Saturday night in August is a time when people congregate at their favorite bars and clubs to celebrate a wonderful summer. So it was in Dayton, Ohio, Saturday night and early Sunday when people crowded into the popular Ned Peppers.

No one is worrying about mass murder at a time like that when people are partying with friends.

But they will now.

There were conversations over the weekend about the need to repeal the Second Amendment. It’s foolish to waste time talking about something that is never going to happen.

Do you really think two-thirds of the members of both the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate will agree to repeal the Second Amendment and that three-fourths of the state legislatures will ratify that action?

It’s also foolish for our national leaders to believe that “thoughts and prayers” are all that’s needed in the aftermath of a week in which there was one gun tragedy after another.

Three people were shot to death and a dozen others were wounded at a community festival in Gilroy, Calif. Twenty-two people were killed and 26 others were wounded at the Walmart in El Paso. Nine people were killed and 27 others were wounded at the Dayton club.

Our national government’s non-response to these increasingly common massacres is so infuriating. No one really expects Congress to approve one bill and eliminate all gun homicides.

We don’t expect scientists to find one breakthrough that will cure all diseases. We don’t expect safety experts to make one improvement in car and truck designs that will eliminate all fatal crashes.

But opponents of any gun control seem to think that changes in gun laws are a waste of time if they don’t achieve perfection – even though most of us would agree that progress is made through multiple small steps.

Observers over the weekend pointed out the frustrating contrast between Congress’ approach to gun regulation changes and health officials’ swift action when E. coli contamination was found in romaine lettuce after five people were killed and thousands of others were sickened. Grocers and restaurant owners across two-thirds of the states discarded their supplies of the produce out of an abundance of caution for the safety of their customers.

When terrorists used boxcutters to hijack four airliners on 9/11, federal officials quickly put in place regulations to screen all future airline passengers – even though the security inspections are time-consuming and massively inconvenient and expensive.

After each of these gun massacres, all manner of potential reasons are put forth: We need to focus on mental illness; we need to focus on violent video games; we need more armed security where people gather.

Some on the left want to blame President Donald Trump for fueling last weekend’s violence with his tweets and unrestrained language. Some grouse that he won’t use the term “domestic terrorism” or “white-supremacy terrorists.”

Those are distractions. There are these facts of life: Mass killings pre-date Trump’s arrival at the White House. Period. Mental illness and violent video games are not unique to the United States. Period.

But without a doubt, mass murder is a problem that no other country but the United States faces. An inescapable piece of reality colors this American phenomenon: That’s the ready access to high-powered assault weapons and large-capacity ammo clips and magazines by nearly anyone.

There is plenty of middle ground between repealing the Second Amendment and doing nothing – and it’s time for Congress to stop the dithering and start working in that middle ground on solutions that will reduce the magnitude of America’s mass murder toll.

The background check bill that is awaiting a vote in the Senate is one place to start.

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Randy Evans is executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council and retired opinion editor at the Des Moines Register. He is a native of Bloomfield, Iowa, and now lives in Des Moines. He can be reached at

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