President Donald Trump on Monday condemned “racism, bigotry, and white supremacy” as “sinister ideologies” that must be defeated.
That’s the very least that can be said after a shooter in El Paso, Texas, drove to a Walmart to kill and wound dozens, apparently not long after posting a screed warning about a Hispanic “invasion.”
Too bad the president didn’t mention any regrets about his own reprehensible past statements about immigrant invasions. Too bad he didn’t commit to changing his behavior.
And while it was encouraging to hear Trump talk, however vaguely, about “great legislation” and red-flag laws to keep guns out of the hands of mentally troubled people, it’s not enough. The recent, multiple mass shootings demand a more urgent response.
Trump has tiptoed toward reasonable gun-control legislation in the wake of tragedies before. He has helped secure some modest, almost cosmetic improvements. He just never finishes the job.
The key line in Trump’s White House address was this: “Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun.”
This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the moment. The rest of the world is no less mentally troubled and hate-filled than America. Young people elsewhere play violent video games, too. Yet U.S. law blesses the easy ownership of high-powered weapons. It’s easy for a shooter here to claim many victims.
Yes, we should work toward a less violent culture. Yes, there should be greater oversight of the internet’s dark reaches. And yes, law enforcement must be allowed to treat white supremacy as domestic terrorism.
But the shooters in El Paso and in Gilroy, California, and Dayton, Ohio, were armed with more than hate and flustered brain chemistry in recent days. They had warlike weapons that are so far from the Founding Fathers’ imagination as to be imaginary. More good guys with guns? In Dayton, police heroically responded in under a minute. But in that click of the stopwatch, nine people were killed.
It’s past time to respond with new laws, an opportunity for Trump and his Republican Party to show that they can offer more than prayers. More is possible: In New York State, the mind-numbing tragedy at the Sandy Hook school in neighboring Connecticut prompted a stricter ban of assault-style weapons and passage of other regulations that have been steadily built upon. Laws matter. New York, like other blue states with real gun regulation, has had a relatively low firearm mortality rate.
The U.S. Senate must interrupt its summer recess. Items one and two: an assault weapons ban and passage of bipartisan legislation already approved by the House that would stop unlicensed gun sellers from transferring weapons without background checks. It’s common sense. The argument that this wouldn’t let a legitimate owner gift a gun to a relative is untrue. Regrettably, simple transfers would be allowed in that case.
Enough with the failed arguments of yesterday. Enough with the deaths of these last weeks. Let’s see Trump’s willingness for “great legislation.” Let’s see legislation actually signed.