After taking a six-week summer recess, during which they were ostensibly working “back home” and interacting with constituents — think photo ops — federal lawmakers returned to the Capitol this week facing a long and important “to do” list.
Maybe it’s better described as a “to avoid” list:
• Avoiding significant and long-term solutions to ever-increasing deficit spending and debt.
• Avoiding steps to combat foreign interference in our elections.
• Avoiding a fight with Big Pharma over prescription-drug pricing practices.
• And avoiding any action toward addressing the uniquely American epidemic of gun violence and mass shootings.
It should surprise no one if (when) Republicans and Democrats, for the umpteenth time, opt to head off a government shutdown — funding is due to run out at midnight Sept. 30 — by mutually agreeing to spend more money they don’t have. This game has been going on for years, under leadership of both parties, and politicians have neither the time nor the political appetite to control their spending habit. That hasn’t changed.
What has changed, albeit slightly, is public sentiment toward gun legislation.
Mass shootings in Dayton and El Paso on the same day in early August weren’t enough for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to postpone the congressional recess or President Trump to stick to his initial statement of support of universal background checks. (A phone call with the National Rifle Association apparently set the president straight.)
However, while lawmakers were donning hardhats and posing at public works projects, taking overseas junkets or enjoying some R&R, more mass shootings occurred. And Americans are signaling support for congressional action.
A new poll by the Washington Post and ABC News shows that, while there remains a wide gulf on attitudes regarding the most far-reaching proposals regarding gun control, Americans across the board are finding common ground on small, common sense measures.
“Red flag” laws, which allow guns to be taken from people judged to be a danger to themselves or others, drew 86% support in the poll. And a solid 89% back expanding federal background checks to include private sales and gun-show transactions. Among Republicans, white evangelical Christians, members of gun-owning households and other traditionally conservative groups, those measures were supported by at least 80% of poll respondents.
The NRA’s long-standing “slippery slope” argument — giving an inch means gun opponents will take a mile — needs to be dismissed. Citizens should demand that their lawmakers and the president take these small steps to close some of the biggest loopholes.
Unlike its inaction on spending solutions, when Congress kicks the gun-legislation can down the road, innocent lives are lost. It’s long past time for action.