More mass shootings, the same sad playbook. Call the Senate back to vote | Monday Morning Coffee

August 5, 2019 7:18 am

Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Scenes from a mass shooting:

  • “‘EMS drivers didn’t know where to start, people were everywhere … People were screaming ‘that bitch started shooting.'”
  • “When everything went silent all you could hear is the screaming and panicking. All I could think was someone is dying.”
  • “We eating breakfast and see ‘Oh, another shooting.’” 

And, of course:

“Let us also pray that the violence stops altogether.”

DaytonEl Paso?

No, Allentown, on June 20, after a mass shooting at the Deja Vu nightclub left 10 people injured.
All told, more than two-dozen people have been shot in the Lehigh Valley city since June, according to reporting by the Morning Call.

You can maybe be forgiven if you haven’t heard about the violence that’s shattered the streets of the Lehigh Valley city this summer. There’s a mind-numbing regularity to acts of violence across America now. And there’s a mind-numbing regularity in the responses from victims, advocates and policymakers.

After 20 years of mass shootings, going back to Columbine, each knows their part to play. And every time we we swear it will never happen again: After Las Vegas. After Newtown. After Charleston. After Parkland.

Yet here we are again. The same tragedy. The same stupid, sad playbook.

And not a damn thing changes.

Orange-clad advocates rally in the Capitol Rotunda during a Gun Violence Awareness Day event (Capital-Star photo by John L. Micek)

And the thing is, a part of the solution is within reach.

The Republican-controlled U.S. Senate has a House-approved background checks bill. On Sunday, the chamber’s Democratic majority, joined by Senate Democrats, called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, recall the Senate from recess to vote on the bill.

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., one of the rare voices of GOP sanity on guns, released a statement Saturday calling on the Senate to pass “bipartisan proposals such as my legislation with Senator Joe Manchin to expand background checks to all commercial firearm sales. I also agree with Senator Lindsey Graham that we should pass a bipartisan “red flag” measure that enables families and law enforcement to obtain a court order to keep guns away from dangerous individuals.”

Speaking to reporters Sunday, President Donald Trump said ‘something’ had to be done to stop the epidemic of gun violence in our streets. But as the Guardian reportsTrump, egged on by the National Rifle Association, has resisted any such effort:

“The [NRA] was a key part of his coalition, spending $30m to help him beat Hillary Clinton. He has resisted basic measures such as signing background checks for gun sales into law. A promise to defend the second amendment, the right to bear arms, always rouses one of the biggest cheers at his campaign rallies. Trump wildly exaggerates Democrats’ plans for gun control. “

In a statement, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., also called on McConnell to hold a vote. He further criticized Trump for encouraging an atmosphere of hate and intolerance.

“Enough. We don’t have to live like this. Politicians who refuse to take action to reduce gun violence are complicit in this carnage. If we’re going to truly confront this uniquely American problem, we have to speak uncomfortable truths,” Casey said.  “Over and over again, domestic terrorists use high powered, military-style assault weapons to kill our children and our families. There are a whole range of steps that must be taken. Congress’s first priority must be passing universal background checks, limiting the size of magazines and banning military-style assault weapons, among other measures. Senate Majority Leader McConnell should immediately call the Senate back to Washington this week to debate and vote on universal background check legislation that was passed by the House in February.”

But as much as some, in Washington and in Harrisburg, have tried to paint pro-gun control forces as outliers, the simple reality is that the voters are way ahead of policymakers on this issue.

In poll after poll, majorities of Americans, including majorities of Republican voters, support mandatory background checks on gun purchases. Take, for instance, this Quinnipiac University poll from earlier this year:

In Harrisburg, other gun-control measures, including a so-called ‘Red Flag’ law are awaiting action by the General Assembly.

In a statement, Gov. Tom Wolf and First Lady Frances Wolf expressed their sympathy for the victims of the weekend shootings. Wolf also issued a call to action.

“We can ban assault weapons and institute stricter background checks. We can make communities safer. We can target white nationalism and promote tolerance. We can invest in mental health care and help those struggling. We cannot accept this violence as normal. We must act,” Gov. Wolf said in a statement.

But the only way our current paralysis lifts is if the voices of change are stronger than the monied voices who speak for the gun lobby. And there is evidence, thanks to some committed American women and some very smart high schoolers from Parkland, Fla., that this is changing.

A woman holds a sign in favor of extreme risk protection orders at a gun control rally in the Capitol rotunda. (Capital-Star photo by Sarah Anne Hughes)

“There is so much we can do. An easy place to start is to pass the background check bill currently stalled in Washington. We need our senators in Washington D.C. to vote to require a background check on all gun sales,” Shanna Danielson, an activist with MOMS Demand Action, wrote in a piece for our Commentary Page on Sunday.

“Join MOMS Demand Action and ask U.S. Sens. Bob Casey (D) and Pat Toomey (R) to demand action, too. Text CHECKS to 644-33 and join our efforts,” she wrote.

Text the number. Make your voice heard. Make sure it’s louder than those who stand by and do nothing.

Join us, won’t you?

Our Stuff.
Stephen Caruso 
has what you need to know about the new, gender-neutral drivers’ licenses the state will begin offering next year.

Washington Bureau Chief Robin Bravender runs down fund-raising by Pa’s Democratic freshmen on Capitol Hill.

On our Commentary Page, state Sens. Katie Muth, D-Chester; Maria Collett, D-Montgomery, and Lindsey Williams, D-Allegheny, offer their plan to help the most vulnerable Pennsylvanians now that the General Assistance program has been eliminated.

And a policy analyst from the Keystone Research Center explains how the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion touched her family in a very personal way.

Capital-Star file

The Inquirer takes you inside a trauma center’s efforts to save gunshot victims.
A student from St. Francis University was among the victims of the Dayton shooting, the Post-Gazette reports.
And a student from Washington High School in western Pa. was also among the Dayton victims, the Tribune-Review reports.
PennLive asks whether the state should have moved faster to take over the troubled Harrisburg schools.

Here’s your #Harrisburg Instagram of the Day:

Right after scoring a goal on Sunday, a Philadelphia Union player seized a field-side microphone to call on Congress to fight gun violence. WHYY-FM has the story.
The Incline 
has the ’40 books Pittsburghers can’t put down’ this year.
The PA Post looks at Pa. lawmakers’ calls for increased gun restrictions (or not) in the wake of this weekend’s mass shootings.
PoliticsPA has last week’s winners and losers in state politics.
The South has a shortage of doctors to treat HIV, reports.
Politico looks at the ‘scramble to secure’ voting machines across the country.
Another Texas Republican will retire from Congress in 2020Roll Call reports.

Gov. Tom Wolf 
has no public schedule today.

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition).
State Sen. Joe Pittman holds a golf outing this morning at Indiana Country Club. Admission runs $100 to $6,000.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s one from Black Lipsit’s ‘Bad Kids.’

Monday’s Gratuitous Soccer Link.
D.C. United
 — who were playing the Union on Sunday night — ended up losing 5-1.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.